Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boston Globe Has to Rewrite Gatehouse Headlines and Leads Before Deep Linking

Boston Sunday Globe

Trying to understand the agreement between the Globe and Gatehouse.

Today's Globe says, Media chains settle lawsuit:
"Under the agreement, will be able to refer to stories from GateHouse sites, as it has done in the past, and to manually 'deep link' to individual articles without presenting the links with headlines or lead sentences."
The Nieman Journalism Lab blog makes it clearer, Some confusing language in the GateHouse linking settlement:
So it looks like the upshot is that the Globe can continue to link to GateHouse stories all they want, but that they can’t use any sort of automated tool or the RSS feed to do it. They’ll have to have a human being manually creating the link — and that human will have to write a new headline and summary instead of using GateHouse’s.
Dan Kennedy has more, Settlement details are now online: gut tells me that, by agreeing not to aggregate GateHouse content automatically for its Your Town sites, the Times Co. will shift more to a blogging model, compiled by actual human beings, rather than robotically posting headlines and ledes from GateHouse's Wicked Local sites.

"To put it in the language of online-journalism theory, they have to shift a bit from raw aggregation to something closer to curation," writes Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab. I agree — I think that's exactly what we're going to see.
The solution sounds a lot like what my friend Adam Gaffin does on Universal Hub.

Adam is a human filter for news stories and blog posts around the area. He writes witty headlines and posts linking to interesting content.

One thing that Adam does a lot though, is link to reports and interviews. He doesn't copy and paste in the actual article name. By doing that, you lose a lot of Search Engine Optimization, meaning that if someone is looking for a certain subject, the words report and interview are not going to show up.

Here's Adam's most recent post:
On the plus side, rents are going down

John Ford posts fourth-quarter apartment-rent numbers for Boston.
The actual title of the post Adam links to is:
First it was condo sales……now apartment rents
How I would have linked to this:
John Ford writes First it was condo sales……now apartment rents showing fourth-quarter apartment-rent numbers for Boston.
That's how many people link to articles. Lot's of blogging tools help do this for you. For example, if you use delicious to share a link, the headline gets copied.

It'll be interesting to see if bloggers take a second look at their linking practices based on this settlement.

What do you think?


  1. Steve: You nailed it. Universal Hub is a great example of one way to do aggregation right. Our lawsuit was never about linking. We dig it when sites link to our work (in accordance with Creative Commons) and we encourage our journalists to link too.

    Greg Reibman
    Editor in Chief Metro Unit
    GateHouse Media New England

  2. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Greg, are you saying that copying titles and a line of the lede was really your objection?

    That doesn't make sense on a business level. What you stand to gain or lose is traffic. You don't care whether you lose it to a bot or a human.

    My guess is that their switching to human-written title and lede defenestrated your case so badly that it went from weak to indefensible.

  3. Many folks have unfortunately assumed that this case was about some broadly applicable principles, rather than the actual facts about what was going on with competing community news and information websites for Newton, Needham, and Waltham and whether the verbatim copying of a competitor's content is fair use. I would encourage you to read Dan Kennedy's piece for the Guardian and Bill Mitchell's piece for Poynter Online. Both point and link to the report of Professor Doug Lichtman, submitted on GateHouse's behalf and part of the public record of the case, for a better understanding of what the case was really about, and what it was not.

  4. Anonymous8:04 PM

    I'm glad this case was settled out of court, but I'm still very unhappy that your company filed it in the first place.

    You have done a disservice to the many talented people who work for your newspapers, by discouraging bloggers and aggregators from linking to their work and thereby adding to their audience.

  5. Anonymous8:12 PM

    And, responding to Steve Garfield:

    I disagree with your suggestion of the best way to link. The original idea of hypertext was that you write colloquial English sentences and paragraphs, while turning certain words and phrases into links. In other words, links are a feature added to well-written and interesting prose.

    If this practice doesn't match up well with the way search engines works, then the search engines need to get smarter. Writers shouldn't have to torture their writing to meet the needs of machines at the expense of human readers.