So-called mainstream editors today are thinking a lot more about what gets picked up on the blogosphere. This is not a wholly bad thing - and PRWeek certainly has its fair share of content linked to by external blogs. But it's not straightforward either.
The appeal of the blog link goes far beyond its PR value - much further than the opportunity to flaunt great content. This is about revenue as much as it is about getting great stories out. A well-trafficked blog that posts a link to a story - preferably with a lurid headline - will draw scores of untapped eyeballs to a Web site. Those eyeballs are counted and translated into ad revenues, as more eyeballs on specific content equals more value, at least based on current metrics.
This is all transparent and sensible, and publishers certainly deserve to reap the benefits of their content, particularly when it is being used on other sites. It also reinforces that buzz-generating stories don't exclusively bubble up through the blogosphere, but sometimes filter down into it. Traditional media still provide much of the information that is read, forwarded, and chatted about online, in spite of the doomsayers.
Blog links also provide an opportunity for sampling of content that readers might not find their way to in normal reading. In an era of declining circulation, any chance to win new loyal readers is a good thing.
At times, though, it seems lately that there is a growing preoccupation by some media outlets with not just the nature of the stories that they are putting out, but also the resonance they will have in the blogosphere. Daily papers and Web sites are populated more and more with the kinds of stories that are great fodder for the digital water cooler. How long did Rosie vs. Trump really need to go on, for example - and that's a question for print and broadcast. After a point, the allowance given to those two egomaniacs by the media seemed to serve only one purpose: driving traffic.
There are a few no-brainer ways to get a link these days, and in reading some of the daily newspapers, it is hard not to think that calculus is being employed in story selection and headline writing. First, if there's a celebrity involved, you've got a good shot right out of the gate. Mention a blogger, and you're a shoo-in for his or her site, of course. A combination of the two makes for some sweet linking.
Blog links to content are necessary and not yet evil. The advantages certainly outweigh the drawbacks at this point. But there is nevertheless a risk that editors will move further and further away from their readers and start to respond to a false indicator of popularity and influence that is created by blog status.
Just as the PR industry needs to understand what new media channels and outlets are critical for their companies and clients, media organizations must resist the lure of a cheap headline and tabloid sensation when it isn't consistent with the values of the publication. A publication that does not put its readers first will ultimately fail by every really important metric there is.