Of all the many things that make blogging a truly new medium, the most important is linking. As I remarked in my much-discussed notes on blogging, “Blogs without links aren’t blogs.” Linking transforms individual blogs into a larger community–a blogosphere–whose members freely share ideas and readers with one another, and in so doing increase their own value.
One of the most fascinating aspects of blogging is the unexpected speed with which it has evolved into a collective “gatekeeper” for traditional media–a way of sifting through tons of dirt and finding the gems. I now “read” most magazines and newspapers not directly but by way of links, some of the best of which come from artsjournal.com, “About Last Night”‘s invaluable host. (You can read it by clicking on the artsjournal.com logo in the upper-left-hand corner of this page.) It was because of artsjournal.com, for example, that I became aware of yesterday’s Women’s Wear Daily story about how magazine newsstand sales are plummeting:
According to official figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, out of the 472 magazines it tracks, 319 reported newsstand declines and their combined newsstand sales fell 5.9 percent (3.3 million copies), not counting new titles reporting sales for the first time.
The big picture looks even worse for magazines too small to be counted by the ABC. According to the International Periodical Distributors Association, which tracks 95 percent of all magazines, net unit sales fell 13.4 percent in the second half of 2003 compared with the previous year, and that’s after sales dropped 12.9 percent in the first half (when there was a war on).
“You can’t blame Iraq, and you can’t blame the economy…. Well, I guess you can, but how long can you keep doing that?” said Chip Block, vice chairman of the subscription fulfillment company USApubs.
Nowhere in the story does the author suggest that blogging might be pulling newsstand sales downward–but I have no doubt that it is. In fact, my guess is that the emergence of blogging will transform the periodical business beyond recognition, as more people come to rely on links as their primary means of reading most magazines.
Links being as important as they are, it strikes me that bloggers ought to be scrupulous about giving credit where credit is due–and not merely to the original publication, either. I don’t read Women’s Wear Daily, I read artsjournal.com, and it would have been implicitly dishonest for me to mention that WWD story without also mentioning how I found out about it in the first place.
Here’s how Our Girl and I decide when and where to give credit:
(1) If a story has already been widely linked throughout the blogosphere, we don’t usually attempt to give credit for the original link. (Aside from everything else, we don’t always know who spotted it first.)
(2) If the story appeared in a widely read print-media publication such as the New York Times, we generally don’t give credit, either–that is, unless the blogger in question dug a tidbit out of that publication that might otherwise have gone overlooked, or enhanced its interest by commenting on it in a memorable way.
(3) In all other cases, we credit the blogsource. (The formula I most often use is “Courtesy of blogsource.com…”)
Do we slip up on occasion? Sure. I often bookmark stories cherrypicked from the blogosphere, and by the time I get around to looking at the bookmarks, I’ve sometimes forgotten where I found them. But that’s a mistake, not a policy. Whenever we can, we credit the source.
This isn’t merely a matter of common courtesy, or even collegiality. OGIC and I don’t give credit to such fellow bloggers as Supermaud, Sarah, Lizzie, Cinetrix, and Chicha
just to be chummy (though that’s part of the fun). We do it because we want you to read them, too. The potential audience for litblogs and arts blogs is infinitely larger than the number of people currently reading them. The more such blogs you visit on a regular basis, the more interested you’ll become in the larger phenomenon of blogging, and–we hope–the more often you’ll come back to dance with the one who brung you.
Repeat after me: Giving credit to blogsources for borrowed links is good for everybody in the blogosphere.
Not all bloggers feel this way. Certain of our colleagues are bad–a few notoriously so–about giving credit to other bloggers. I’ll name no names, but I will say that the stingy practice of link-poaching has lately come in for quite a bit of backstage criticism.
Needless to say, others can and will do as they please. That’s in the nature of the blogosphere. But at “About Last Night,” we believe that the larger interests of litblogging and arts blogging are best served by crediting the sources of our links, and we strongly recommend that our fellow bloggers do the same thing.
Here endeth the lesson. We return you now to our regularly scheduled program.