This is the fourth in a five part series in which I'm laying out the secrets to successful financial blogging. There are always exceptions to any rule, but if you follow this stuff you will see that I'm right. We've covered Aesthetics, Content and Style, now let's talk about how to link.
Excerpting: Blogging is essentially a derivative form. From a foundational standpoint, it makes use of article excerpts the way early Hip Hop was built on soul music samples and rock song break beats. Most financial blogging is predicated on the blogger being able to tease truth and meaning out of traditional articles and reporting. At its core, financial blogging is taking third-party market data and journalism, often from mainstream outlets, and using it as the basis for further comment, disagreement, or elucidation. There is plenty of room for your original writing but if you're not building around the constant news flow then you'll quickly find yourself running out of things to blog about. You will also become irrelevant as the reader is looking for news reaction and analysis, not just the cloistered remarks of a disconnected Man Apart.
Eclecticism: You will routinely find a mixture of familiar sources and off-the-beaten-path content on my website. Because I take great pride in keeping things interesting and varied. If you're going to link to the same 5 sites every day, don't bother. If your linkage will be limited to 4 or 5 mainstream media outlets, don't bother. If you have no interesting reading material to point us toward other than market-related stuff, skip the blog. I want all of you when you blog, mix it up and give yourself to me. I'm so weird when I write these things.
Attribution: If you're going to build your platform on a variety of the world's available content, you'd better get damn good at giving props or at least credit for where this stuff is coming from. This is accomplished in two ways, a link within the body of your text (a la Felix Salmon) or a source list at the footer of your post (a la Barry Ritholtz). I personally do both although a lot more of the latter. Although I recognize the value of having a particular word or phrase underlined and hyperlinked, I tend to want to be able to finish my post before anyone can jump anywhere. I also will rarely excerpt or sample from more than one or two places in any single post so the source list below doesn't get carried away.
Linkfests: Let's talk about the Why. The reason for a links post, whether a regularly scheduled one like mine or a random one, should be to give your readers access to a broader scope of content and insight. I cannot possibly discuss every single facet of the economy and market every day, but I think it's important to know what's going on at all times. I'm not an expert in everything and so I would much rather point you toward the opinions of those I trust on certain subjects. I could very happily write blog posts on technical analysis and monetary policy and the machinations of the Federal Reserve and the implications of iron ore tariffs in Latin America - but the fact of the matter is that I would be coming to a gun fight armed with a toothpick and doing you no good whatsoever. I also have no monopoly on all the interesting ideas and opinions out there, so why not bring this stuff to your attention each day and keep you happy and satisfied as a reader. Your blogger is only as good as what he reads each day and is only as cool as the reading he shares with you, remember that.
Hyperlinks: There are a million wrong ways to write a links post and then there is my way, the right one. We can debate if you'd like, but you will not win - my linking Kung-Fu is way stronger than yours - learned from the Master (Tadas Viskanta) and honed on the thousand or so link posts I've thrown up over two years on my own site and at Wall Street Journal. I am gathering links 24 hours a day, storing them in folders and files, and awake at 5:30 am to harvest and curate them into posts before you have even lifted your head off the pillow - so don't f*ck with me about this stuff. The daily Abnormal Returns linkfest is the linkfest against which all others should be judged in the financial blogosphere. No one else matches the depth, breadth, consistency of content, dependability of timing and attention to detail. No one even comes close. This is important because I want you to look at how he lays a hyperlink down:
Top performing hedge fund managers are reported to have been huffing octopus blood in the 3rd quarter. (Farnam Street)
See how the executive summary-ish description of the story precedes the link itself, which is credited to the site where the post appears. See how the name of the site is boldfaced to distinguish it at a glance from the text of the sentence? That's all folks. There are plenty of ways to screw that up, but why not do this simple thing correctly?
OK, that's it from me on linking. I know this stuff may start sounding pedantic but I am writing this series to provide a structure for those looking to up their game.
Tune in next Friday for Part V
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