Self-linking and conflict of interest

by Jason Preston on October 10, 2008

It’s often very hard to make headway with people who think that self-linking is the only kind of linking. The old-world theory goes that a link to some other domain is bad because it encourages the user to leave your site and, even worse, could be good for your competitor.

But the old rules don’t apply anymore. And no matter how much Scott Karp talks about link journalism and how great it is, people still don’t get it.

I just realized there’s another way to look at it: conflict of interest.

This is a big shift in thought. And a lot of people are going to dismiss it out of hand. But I think it makes a lot of sense if you step back for a second and think about it.

IF you assume that “conflict of interest” exists to make sure that a journalist provides the reader with the best, most impartial news,

THEN you have to accept that, when you know there is a better resource available online, sending a reader via a link to an inferior news article because you or your newspaper wrote it, that is a classic case of what “conflict of interest” is designed to prevent.

I think conflict of interest as it exists is bulls&%t. It’s far better to disclose conflicts and then write about them anyway than it is to pretend you can avoid writing about things in which you have a vested interest. Besides, it’s more honest.

I think self-linking is fine, and in fact I think a certain amount of it is good. I certainly do it.

But don’t pretend that you’re conflict-free when you do it.

Want more of my rants? Subscribe to the Eat Sleep Publish RSS feed.