Piggyback authority

by Jason Preston on October 15, 2008

Every print daily newspaper has, almost by definition, a certain amount of authority based in the fact that they’re spending lots of money to physically print something (instead of just spending hardly any money to put it online).

Conversely, a lot of new online news companies have to do a lot to convince people that they’re legitimate and authoritative. Sources have to be convinced that they’re talking to a legitimate journalist, and readers need to learn that the content is high-quality even though there’s no print component.

Some services like Newser are sidestepping the issue by building piggyback authority.


The key to piggyback authority is link aggregation. Of course, you have to be careful when building an aggregator not to scrape your sources. Newser does this well by providing an original article summary for each of their chosen links. The Huffington Post does this poorly by simply copying the start of an article.

Proper aggregation displays authority and builds trust in two ways:

  1. It demonstrates good taste in news selection
  2. It allows you to piggyback on the authority of the news sources you link to

Parasitic or Symbiotic?

On the internet, all traffic is good, and inbound links are always good, and being consistently placed in reputable aggregators is good.

So the more an aggregator borrows a paper’s authority and becomes reputable, the more valuable it is to the paper when the aggregator chooses to link to them.

And, in theory, the aggregator will choose to link to the paper as long as it produces good news.

That sounds pretty symbiotic to me.

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