Blogonomics: When Blogs and Links are Second-Class

Econoblogs are now mainstream enough that even the Richmond Fed is publishing articles about them — even if this one is the kind of article which doesn’t exist in HTML format; explains that blog is "short for web log" and that bloggers are "authors of web logs"; and puts the word "visitors" in scare quotes. Still, the author, Betty Joyce Nash, was plugged-in enough to spend a lot of time talking to Aaron Schiff, who hosts probably the most extensive directory of economics blogs.

So, does this mean that econoblogging in general, and Schiff’s directory in particular, are now officially mainstream? No. In an astonishing move, the first-rate economics blog VoxEU actually contacted Schiff to ask to be removed from his directory:

Apparently, VoxEU consider themselves as a portal for policy discussions and not a blog, so they didn’t want to be included in a list of blogs.

In a world where the most recent winner of the economics Nobel is a proud and prolific blogger, this is just depressing. For one thing, there’s absolutely no reason why a portal for policy discussions shouldn’t be a blog: see Economist’s View, for starters. And since VoxEU clearly is a blog — and thought of itself as a blog this time last year — I fear that the term must still be particularly smelly for its proprietors to try so assiduously to stamp it out.

One thing that VoxEU is very good at is providing hyperlinks to referenced papers: as most bloggers know, the more you send people away, the more they come back. But the mainstream media still doesn’t get that, as is evidenced by Brian Stelter’s article on Monday headlined "Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites". I was hoping that he might finally have discovered that rarest of beasts — a big media site with external links on its home page — but I was wrong.

Instead, external links are being ghettoized, relegated to new sites devoted to such things, or maybe a few blogs.

The NYT is a prime example. It has some fantastic blogs, but it still isn’t any closer to external links on its home page. Instead, we get this:

The New York Times is developing a version of the home page “that will contain links to other news sites and blogs alongside the articles we publish,” The Times’s chief technology officer, Marc Frons, told Web readers in July. That feature, called Times Extra, will be published using a technology called Blogrunner that the Times acquired in 2005.

Of course, there’s no link to the article in question. And Stelter doesn’t quote how Frons continued:

Readers uninterested in that aggregation of content will still be able to use our regular home page.

In other words, we’re still a very long way from the point at which hyperlinking is considered a core editorial service that a newspaper should provide. Maybe links at the NYT carry something of the same whiff that the word "blog" does over at VoxEU.

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