Work was a hive of activity on Friday, as our new exhibition, Game On, had its media launch ahead of its opening to the public today. I'm told it was one of our most successful launches ever, in terms of media turnout, and so we got a great deal of coverage on tv, in print and on air.
I didn't really have any role in the exhibition, but did put together the exhibition website, which includes information about the exhibition, a commissioned viral game, and some user-generated-content in the form of videogame memories (which I dubbed games gone by).
With this in mind, I thought I'd do a quick review of the online media coverage, in particular looking to see whether they bothered to link to our website.
Old video games make a comeback,
Guardian Unlimited- uses Press Association copy, and doesn't bother to link. Boo.
Game on at the Science Museum for console fans,
The Independent- This is copy taken straight from the Saturday Independent, and doesn't include any links.
Video game exhibition announced,
BBC News Online- this was published from the pre-publicity a week or so ago. Includes a link to us within the 'related links' on the right hand side - hooray - but is only to our homepage, not the specific exhibition page.
I tried out old-fashioned games consoles,
Newsround- copy by a child 'press packer' - doesn't include any links (because of child audience?)
Video games -- blessing or curse, asks new exhibition,
news.scotsman.com- Reuters copy, no link.
Reminder: Game On Exhibit in London Starts Today,
Retroblast- not much copy, but they link direct to the exhibition website.
Game On (again) at the Science Museum,
pocketgamer.co.uk- some well informed copy, and a link to the exhibition website at its shortened URL of www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/gameon (which I think was on the original press release).
An obvious conclusion from the above review is that online-only, niche news website are good at including related external links for their readers to follow, but more mainstream newspaper-originated websites don't bother. I can think of a few reasons for this. Perhaps it's because the copy comes straight from the newspaper, where URLs aren't so relevant, and there's no resource to insert them for the web version. However, with the Guardian having recently decided to publish online before print, this excuse become more thin. Plus, I'd argue that the small amount of effort that it takes to insert a link tag is easily worth it for the added-value that it offers your readers. Perhaps they see external links as a way of taking people away from their website, and hence losing potential ad revenue, but again I'd argue that this is short-sighted.
It's not just because of the inbound traffic that I'm keen for news stories to link the the museum website - I think it's really important that news websites include links, as one of the primary advantages of news online, rather than in print, is that it's a lot easier to read additional material around the news story, and, more often than not, to go and read the original source (I wonder how news would change if news websites linked through to the press releases that stories are written from).
It's also interesting to note that most of the links, where they were included, were positioned either at the end of the article or in a sidebar. This differes from the more widespread website practice - particularly amongst bloggers - of having inline links. BBC News Online editor Pete Clifton addressed this in two of his columns, in the first of which he replied in response to a reader question that "this is a distraction in our news reporting - I think we should offer links to other sites ... but I'd rather the body of the report stuck to telling that particular piece of news". In a later column, he noted that several readers had written in about the issue, but there were "few, if any, in favour [of inline links]", repeated that he thought they were a distraction, but added that there was "an argument for having them within the text when it is a conversational column and they are part of the narrative".
I'm not sure how I feel about inline links within new stories. One the one hand, I disagree that they're a distraction - I think they're enough of a convention that people are capable of ignoring them or clicking them as they see fit, though I'd like to see some research on this - but on the other hand I find the Wikipedia style of making every other word a link a bit annoying. On balance, I think would include inline links to primary references, but try and limit them to the one or two most important ones.
These are, of course, my own views, and not neccessarily those of my employer.