BBC News Will Warn When Links Go To Paid Sites

The BBC’s news site is frequently lambasted by commercial rivals for not linking out enough and for existing as a roadblock to commercial paid content.

But it’s looking at satisfying both those concerns with a house link-out policy that accommodates fee-charging news websites.

Editor Steve Hermann writes: “As the Times moves into online subscription and others consider the options … there is likely to be a changing landscape with some sites and stories behind paywalls, some not, and some which are in between – a certain number of visits or part of an article free, all depending on the user’s individual circumstances.”

“Some said they’d like us also to flag links which require subscription if you follow them. That is broadly the direction we are going in. We will, where practical, aim to tell you if the link is going to a subscription site. Our automated Newstracker module, for example, should be able to do this and already signals when registration is required.”

BBC News introduced Newstracker, a Moreover-powered story page module that links out to related stories on third-party sites, in 2003 after the Graf report criticised it for not linking enough. It then lay unused for a couple of years before another push in 2008, and the Putting Quality First strategy review has set the target of doubling click-outs to 20 million a month by 2013.

The most important thing here is that BBC News, despite putting user experience in mind, is not responding to the return of paid sites by stopping linking out to their stories. But, if News International continues The Times’ approach of hiding articles from search engines and some aggregators, Moreover will be concerned to ensure it can continue to access Times content.