Yesterday, Dealbreaker’s John Carney told me that for the past couple of months his daily Wall Street Journal has been delivered with a free copy of the New York Sun. That kind of bundling makes a lot of sense for both papers: the WSJ gets free added value, while the Sun gets valuable high-end circulation.
Then, this morning, I visited the ft.com home page, where the top story was "Anheuser-Busch reverses hostility to InBev". Of course I wanted to read all about this latest development, so I clicked on the headline to find the New York Times logo and a byline saying "By New York Times". The FT then ran, verbatim the story broken by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Micheal de la Merced.
This, too, makes sense. The FT will never have the reach and scope in the US that it has in the UK, so it’s a good idea to team up with the NYT on breaking stories, rather than scrambling to independently report what the NYT has already found out. And from the NYT’s point of view, this is a great way of building its reputation as a business newspaper.
Of course, this deal seems to be confined to the FT’s website: I haven’t seen a NYT byline on the front page of the pink paper. I’m sure it involved long negotiations on both sides, and possibly even involved money changing hands.
In that respect, it’s short-sighted. The FT has half of a good idea: that one relatively small newsroom can’t cover everything, so it should be able to use trusted material from elsewhere at times. But it hasn’t yet grokked the other half of the idea, which is that such deals don’t need to be laboriously negotiated. Rather than run the NYT story on its own website, the FT could easily, with no permissions needed at all, simply link to the NYT story on the NYT website – or any other story, from any other news organisation, which the FT felt was important.
It’s called external links on the home page, and it’s an idea I’ve been advocating for some time, not only for the FT but for all news sites. So far, no one has done it, unless you consider someone like Drudge to be a mainstream news site. But it makes all the sense in the world. A website with no outbound links is deliberately denying itself a huge amount of the value which publishing online can provide. And no, having a few blogs buried on the site somewhere doesn’t constitute real outbound linking: I’m talking links on the home page, here, and on the other news pages too.
Frankly, I don’t understand why no one has yet done this; it’s a pretty obvious thing to do, and if the web has proved anything, it’s that the more you send people away, the more they come back. Any speculation on which major news site will be the first to be bold enough to go down this route?