The hub-bub over buying links really started to gather steam about two years ago, that's when I seem to recall see/hearing the search engines go public with their dislike of the technique. It really heated up after someone suggested the advertisers on the O'Reilly network were spamming the engines and the Berkeley College newspaper was singled out as an example of advertising gone bad.
The whole situation soured me on using newspapers as a source to find links but I had a re-think the other day after I read a report from the Newspaper Assn. of America where over 59 million people or 37.3 percent of all active internet users visited an online newspaper site in the second quarter of this year.
The report went on to quote the NAA’s President as saying:
These (newspaper) sites continue to adapt to evolving consumer demands, frequently allowing user comments on articles and offering thought-provoking blogs to complement the journalistic excellence that makes newspapers a community's most trusted resource.
My linkey senses started tingling after I read the last part. With all those people visiting a "trusted source" I decided I needed to move past any issues I had with newspapers and go look for opportunities.
I couldn’t find a list of the online newspapers used in the report but did come across a slightly older study (Nov. 2006) done on the Top 100 Newspaper Web Sites. I pulled the top three papers and decided I'd try looking for links I didn't have to pay for. Here's some of what I found:
The New York Times.
· Offers a detailed media kit that explains the hows and why of advertising on their sites. Very helpful in figuring out which pages have high traffic counts.
· Of the papers I checked, The NY Times has the largest list of blogs and bloggers. They break them down by category making it easy to find and pitch them on articles and stories.
· Under Classifieds there's a directory to add your business to, no signs of pink links here.
The Washington Post.
· In addition to offering a media kit, The WP has a blog directory. Check out the blogroll under Network Members, I'm sure you'll recognize a couple of people.
· The City Guide offers local businesses the opportunity to add a listing. Links in both the blog directory and the City Guide are clean, all the pages checked were listed in both Yahoo and Google.
· Has a so-so media kit and a couple of internal directories, but none show a meter of green.
· Check out the site map, it's detailed and lists columnists/bloggers by category for easy contact.
· Best feature on this site is the USAToday community.
As a USATODAY.com member, you can participate ... by contributing your own comments and reviews throughout the entire USATODAY.com site. Interact with our expert journalists...Connect with other readers...Create your own blog. Upload photos. Find and interact with people like you.
The community is free to join.
Having a topical blog on a site like USA Today makes sense, editors looking for sources, quotes and links tend to turn to people from their home site first since there's a bond of commonality established. If you want to become known for a certain something, this is a good way to do it.
I spent a total of about 20 mintues on the three sites to pull the information listed here. Some of it isn't a cut and dry submission opportunity but overall, the sites can be easily mined for free linking opportunity.