Annoying Warning Links

Broken LinkIn my last article, I pasted a 39 word sentence from an article in the Financial Times, “[He] said the greatest concern of the business lobby was the low level of investment in the German economy, with the share of investment in GDP falling from 20 per cent in 1999 to just 17 per cent in 2012.” It is not uncommon when doing such a copy and paste job for the site to tack the link to the article on the end of the quote. For example, Rolling Stone adds, “Read more: [url].”

This sort of thing annoys me because it requires more work: I have to delete the extra stuff they tacked on. But even more than that, I’m offended. To me it implies that I do not do my job properly and that I’m just going to quote the article without providing a link or even worse that I’m gong to plagiarize. But I understand the desire for this. Even in my minor capacity on the internet, I’ve been plagiarized wholesale. So I can relate and I accept the practice grudgingly.

But the Financial Times goes to a whole new level. To begin with, they don’t add their garbage to the end of the quote—they add it to the beginning. And what they add is really offensive:

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. [url]

I didn’t paste the whole article, obviously; I pasted only 39 words! And the program knows that because it didn’t attach this message when I pasted just two words (a guy’s name).

What this, and I dare say all of those much less repugnant messages, shows is that these companies really don’t understand the internet. They are still trying to hold onto their content in a way that makes no sense. Let’s be clear: no serious internet writer will fail to link to the content that they are discussing and quoting. To some extent, this is done out of respect for the other content creator, but mostly it is for the reader. And readers do care and writers who don’t link will be at an extreme disadvantage in the marketplace for eyeballs. So neither the Financial Times nor Rolling Stone needs to worry about some idiot who isn’t linking to them. No one’s going to see it anyway.

Meanwhile, there is a downside to this behavior for people who want to control content. It makes me far less likely to use these papers as sources. In the case of Rolling Stone, I’ll admit: it is because they annoy me. But in the case of the Washington Post and its new expensive subscription model, I do it for my readers. (Actually, in addition to the warnings, the Financial Times is also by subscription.) I understand that writers have to get paid in the internet age. This just isn’t the way.

Afterword

These warming messages also make doing a search on a phrase much harder. It is often necessary to past the text in a document, copy what you want out of it, and then paste that into a search engine.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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