Help determine’s linking/aggregation strategy

(To those who don’t know me, I’m a community-builder at I’ve been here for about a month and I’m pleased to meet you. Your feedback on this issue will impact not just, but really the entire publishing scene in the region. I could really, really use your thoughts on what follows, and I swear to you I am listening.)

It’s been widely reported that Greg Osberg, the new-ish CEO of Philadelphia Media Networks, wants to be more of a “portal.” Most of us can agree needs to use its traffic muscle to promote other great work happening outside the Inquirer and Daily News, interspersing off-site links with our headlines right from our home page and section fronts. What we have to do now is figure out how it’s going to work.

We are soon going to be courting a diverse set of partners from across the region, from neighborhood blogs with a few dozen readers to the major broadcast news stations. Seeing as is the biggest news site in the region, this has the potential to direct massive amounts of traffic to these sites.

With that in mind, I need your help. Right now, we are considering three possibilities for how we will link:

  • Landing page: Every partner in our network will be given its own branded landing page on (here’s an example from New Jersey Spotlight). When a partner has a story worth extra attention, links from the homepage or a section front will take readers to this landing page. It will have a partial feed RSS with links to the partner to read the full story, plus the partner’s own banner and site description.  There are ads on this page sold by staff.
  • Direct link: When an outside site has a story worth extra attention, links from the homepage or a section front will take readers directly to the site.
  • Branded bar: When you click on an external link, from a partner or non-partner, you’ll be taken directly to the site and your browser will display a bar at the top (think StumbleUpon). It could include a variety of content, including account info, related stories, related partner stories, an advertisement, a site description, etc. It would be easily hidden. Both and the outside site would register page views.

And here are the three things we have to keep in mind:

  • I am but one employee of, and these are just some ideas. You should not assume any of these ideas will be implemented.
  • Any solution must be enticing to the maximum amount of potential partners. It must benefit the partners as much, and very likely more, than
  • Any solution must, in the big picture, lead to greater revenue for

If you’re in favor of the landing page, I challenge you to address the possibility that fewer partners, especially competitive news sources, would enter an agreement.

If you’re in favor of a branded bar, I challenge you to address how we can make it non-invasive and valuable for both our readers and partners.

If you’re in favor of direct links, I challenge you to address how can make up the revenue we could gain through the other two options.

Folks, I promise you: Your feedback and ideas here will be huge. I need to know how partners would respond to these options, what other ideas you have, and what balance we can offer between these varied approaches. I really do want to come up with a plan that’s beneficial for everyone.

  • Branded bar! Thumbs up to the last option.

  • direct link. the reason: that’s what users want. branded bars are incredibly frustrating (ever try to bookmark a page like that? unnerving), and landing pages are an unnecessary duplication of the publication’s real home page that remove the context of the publication in question. the business case: if you want to be a portal, make it the portal of the best stuff, not just all the stuff. at which point the user trusts to bring them relevant information — that dreaded “curate” word — and returns. the challenge, of course, is that you can’t track that in a single metric. it’s a broken chain — but hey, isn’t that the same as circulation for your papers? ultimately, the big question looming over all this is what wants to be, and how it wants to generate revenue. if you become the tastemaker for the region, the ad rates for spots on the front door go up considerably. if you build out landing pages, you boost your inventory, lowering rates across the board. and frankly, the branding bar is a shortsighted solution — if you’re double dipping on pageviews, an advertiser, or maybe Google, will eventually get wise to the tactic and penalize it.

  • Anonymous

    Option 2.5: The direct link, but with an interstitial ad on the way to the new site.

    No one loves ads, but I’m even more down on the toolbars that hang over webpages. So if money has to be made I’d rather you show me a fullscreen interstitial ad for a few seconds and then let me go untethered to the new site.

  • Good idea, Jeff. I’m going to look into that more.

  • I see what’s in this for, but what’s in it for the partners’ point of view? (I could make guesses, but I’d rather hear your point of view).

    Will the partners’ content be in full, or links/teasers?

    Will anyone at be curating, taking the best of this content and packaging it in a place where anyone will see it?

  • As for what’s in it for the partners, the most immediate and significant benefit will be mountains of traffic going directly to their sites. I saw this happen repeatedly at TBD, and has much more reach than TBD did. A single homepage link from would likely produce many repeat visitors. I’d also add that this portion of the partnerships would be just one element of what we’d offer, but those secondary benefits are for another post another day. Most importantly, we’d let them maintain editorial independence.

    The partners’ content would be simply a headline most of the time, occasionally with a teaser no more than a short sentence or two.

    And yes, we’d be curating the best content and packaging it on the highly visible section fronts and the homepage. A majority of their posts likely won’t get links, but when they do have something good it’ll get prominent play.

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  • Christopher Wink

    So, as we talked, I shared some thoughts on here:

    But specific to this question, in that post I wrote this:

    …When you ignore clear best choice for user experience and focus on your immediate, short-term goals first, you almost always lose.

  • Don Henry

    Why not have this discussion on, where you’d have a lot more engagement?

  • Different audiences. The readers of my blog/Twitter are bloggers and journalists who have direct knowledge or insight on this, and I thought this would be a more inviting place to share their thoughts. I figured my network will reach the people who’d be most likely to respond. And these are just my thoughts, not’s.

  • You can certainly implement more than one of these options. The first and most important has to be direct links. And not just to something worth “extra attention.”

    Nothing wrong with dropping a link into an article and acknowledging that yes, some other publication caught this story first.

    Take a look at how the Public School Notebook does it. Links, links, links, whether to their site or others, because the message is that the story, not who’s covering it, is important.

    And I do think if you start that linking culture first partners will be easier to come by. Really interested to see what comes of this.

  • Ok so this is probably too obvious to say, but links within the stories themselves to other relevant coverage would go a long way. I know the editorial workflow doesn’t make that easy, but in terms of value to the reader it’s arguably as important as off-site links on section fronts and the homepage.

  • Yes, what Shannon said.

  • Anonymous

    Great idea. This type if ad works similarly to DVR’d TV ads these days: if you’re paying attention/in a rush, you can click to “skip” right away. But if you’re distracted or daydreaming, the ad will play out without you even noticing, & everyone’s happy.

  • Lehmkuv

    I also endorse the direct link, though the landing pages could work as part of a much more complex strategy. I should admit that when I see stumpleupon links now I don’t even bother clicking through because I got so annoyed having to re-click once I got there. Not sure if you’re thinking of following that closely, but even the visual suggestion of it would likely turn me off. I think direct links could work fine as long as people have, as Andrew says, a reason to come back. There could be more attention paid to links within, to expose people to different content that may be thematically related but would not show up in the same section by default.

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