March 22, 2006

The TrackBack Effect

The Web was built for linking. One page is not the final destination, and should always provide multiple links for pages on the site itself, and if relevant, links to third-party sites. But with recent advancements in the blogging world, this has been taken a step further, with a feature called TrackBacks, which, simply put, add a link and summary of your comments to a third-party site, if you link to them. It's a modern quid-pro-quo.

On Monday, two things of interest happened here at I wrote a piece called "Newspapers a Dying Breed", discussing the potential fate of the San Jose Mercury News, now up for sale, and later that morning, the very same Mercury News scooped the technology media world by announcing Microsoft's work on a next generation game and music handheld, which I covered in "Microsoft Not Giving Up Despite Failures". In both cases, the links I provided issued TrackBacks to the original site.

Later that day, while at the office, I received a Google News alert saying that the blog had been quoted on media watchdog Editor & Publisher, in a piece covering CNET's blog site Blogma, and titled "CNet Forum: Web Guru Gilmor Wants Yahoo to Buy 'Mercury News'", a comment I had made was included. This happened thanks to TrackBacks, as CNet had found my post and included it in their morning news roundup. Additionally, in parallel, the link I had made to the Mercury News itself started driving significant traffic to the site, as the Microsoft rumor grew legs and got incredible exposure. The traffic swarm to Mercury News led some to click through and see my reaction, leading to six times the normal site volume Monday, and significant traffic from Redmond, Washington, home of Microsoft.

TrackBacks provide news seekers an opportunity to gain access to third-party commentary instantly, even if they may never have visited the site otherwise, and as the technology gains in adoption, you may see it further impact the process you take to gain information - as you rely less on established media and more on gaining the full picture from multiple viewpoints.