The fallacy of the Link Economy

Since the very beginnings of blogs there has been this concept of bloggers freely linking out to other blogger’s posts when referenced in some way. The idea behind this is that besides adding substance to one’s own work we also gave value to the blogs that we linked to.

That value, now referred to in the most part as the Link Economy, came in several ways but primarily it was via the Google PageRank juice that linking out provided to other blogs and then back to you when other bloggers would link to things you might have written. The obvious thing here is that the more juice you acquired the better you would place in search results which helped bring in new readers.

It was a beneficial system for everyone all around but slowly as the blogosphere matured and blogs became a big business we began to see more deep linking (linking to your own material previously posted) and less linking out. Pageviews became the new value system where all that mattered is how many views you can get for each new post.

Sure Google juice still mattered but that could be achieved with carefully crafted SEO headlines and the constant pumping out of content regardless of it having any real inherent value of its own. So now we have blogs, or whole blog networks, whose whole intent is to increase the pageview cycle as much as they can and keep the deep linking going as much as they can per post.

Now the big discussion point is around the quality of content and how it is more like a meal at a fast food restaurant. I first wrote about one of the principal companies being blamed as being the MacDonalds of this emerging trend back in October. Then in the last week several of the big bloggers in the space have continued on and expanded on the subject.

One of those bloggers, Richard MacManus the driving force behind ReadWriteWeb chimed in today with another post where he talked about these content farms of content. However his point of view in the post was more oriented to following a previous thought he had raised about Google’s place, and responsibility, in all this.

He points to the aspect of the Link economy and how others seem to think that Google is doing just fine and that good content will always rise to the top – the mantra of all bloggers who seem to be blind to the changes happening. Richard’s take is that Google isn’t doing enough and that it really has a short window of time to make sure that the Link Economy – which it is in part responsible for creating – doesn’t head into a permanent depression.

While I agree that there are things that Google should be doing, I also feel that some of the responsibility for the current state of content lies with us – the bloggers – and especially with the big blogs who are quite happy to be spreading the grease that we are slipping and sliding in.

It all comes back to the dynamic and powerful economy that we all help create. The economy of links. The economy that gave us the power to make sure our voices could be heard above the white noise of traditional media no matter how big, or how small we were.

The moment we stop sharing our mutual wealth that we create organically through the power of the Link Economy we are in danger of losing everything that every single blogger, famous of not, has worked hard for over the last ten years since the birth of the blogosphere.

The more we relinquish the simple power that each and every single hyperlinked piece of text gives us as a whole; while we try desperately the models being set forth as success to follow, the quicker we transfer the power to new and old media that cares more about the dollar than the power of a unified voice.

As it stand right now the Link Economy is in danger of collapsing and with it the major part of the potential for Social Media to be a vehicle of real change. It is instead becoming a case of the same old business for the same old reasons. Money over people and the improvement of society.

In other words – the same ol’ same ol’ just a new set of players.