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Monday, December 06, 2010

Houston Chronicle hypertext: What's up with the linked article text on

I noticed last week that the Houston Chronicle started linking certain words in articles on Click on those links and they take you to topic pages about the highlighted word.

To find out more, I emailed Dean Betz, the Content Director at the Houston Chronicle/

"Some smart software reads our articles, then links keywords in the articles to topics pages that draw on Houston Chronicle articles and blogs, and relevant content from other sources, including YouTube videos, other Hearst Web sites, sites across the Internet, Twitter dicussion and Wikepedia pages," Betz told the blog.

But that's not all. Betz says there are more new features in the article pages that offer top news from and other news from around the Web.

In case you are really into web development, then you will want to know these new tools come from a company called

The new features were launched last Thursday.


  1. The "smartness" of those auto-generated links is so bad that it adds little to the reporting (as an example, a Chron story yesterday on Continental/France added a link to a DC-10 reference -- an antiquated plane that isn't flown by modern carriers these days). Of course, they're not really intended to enrich the news experience. It's just another gimmick by which shrinking news organizations with declining content try to squeeze a few extra page clicks per reader.

    If you're running the NoScript addon to Firefox, you won't even have to look at the silliness. That's my preferred approach.

  2. The automation isn't perfect; we're continuing to work on improvements in what gets tagged. But the link that is described here -- a link to a topic page about the type of plane involved in a notorious crash 10 years ago -- really does make sense.

  3. It would make more sense if there were a little more intelligent human curation involved.

    The DC-10 link in that story doesn't add much in my opinion. But I will concede that it adds more than the links to the generic terms "aircraft" and "suspended prison sentence" in the same story.

    I get that every extra click on helps the bottom line, and anything that helps the bottom line helps me get the news I want from reporters who like to be paid (so by all means, folks who are bored should CLICK CLICK CLICK those things!). But as a hardcore news consumer, I find it much less distracting to instruct NoScript not to allow scripts from OneSpot except on an occasional, temporary basis.

  4. That's a great suggestion, Kevin, we certainly don't want people seeing or clicking on those links if they don't want to do so.

  5. Keep in mind the links aren't only for humans. They are also meant to lure search engine spiders to the respective topic pages, in hopes the latter achieve high rankings in Google and Bing. The New York Times has been using this technique for years.

    And Dean, while you're listening, maybe tone down the number of links and the degree they stand out? It's a bit overwhelming. Otherwise I think it's a good idea.


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