AOP encourages media groups to play fair with link attribution

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has created a new set of guidelines in a bid to tackle one of the news industry’s most high-profile issues –  link attribution.

Driven by a spate of stories in which newsgroups have accused each other of stealing scoops, the AOP  has developed a “link attribution protocol” which it says should ensure a level playing field across the industry.

In an interview with Press Gazette Richard Reeves, managing director of the Association of Online Publishers, said that the new protocol would take publishers “one step closer towards a  fairer, more transparent digital ecosystem”.

The system works by asking participants to set up a specific email address so they are more easily contactable by rival titles who may feel they have not referenced exclusive content correctly.

The issue of linking has been a live one since the growth of the internet twenty years ago. Many news organisations, including the BBC and News UK initially operated strategies of no links, which infuriated rival newsgroups who saw their scoops not being attributed.

More recently there has been an unwritten understanding between publishers that they link to each other’s key news stories, though this hasn’t always been adhered to.

The AOP gave the example of  The Sun’s scoop of Matt Hancock’s affair with an aide. It pointed out that while some websites posted the link, others embedded a Twitter post of The Sun’s front page.

The Sun’s head of SEO Carly Steven said: “We believe that fair attribution for original reporting is vital to maintaining a healthy and diverse digital ecosystem. Our exclusives are the lifeblood of our brand, and it is clearly in the best interests of both publishers and readers to promote and reward the energy, passion and investment they represent.

“We fully support AOP’s new link policy and look forward to working more closely with all publishers to make this vision a reality.”

The AOP’s advice is that links should be “follow” rather than “nofollow” and that hyperlinks should be anchored on the text of the title that broke a story.


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