Why Bloggers Link to Each Other: A Scholarly Analysis

By Deane Barker on November 25, 2012

It’s not often that you find a peer-reviewed whitepaper in the blogging space, but two professors from the University of California system have published “Link to Success: How Blogs Build an Audience by Promoting Rivals.”

We present an analytical model that explains why a rational blogger may choose to link to another blog. We allow bloggers to differ along two dimensions: (1) the ability to post news-breaking content, and (2) the ability to find news in other blogs. By linking, a blog signals to the reader that it will be able to direct her to news in other blogs in the future.

So, this is essentially an analysis of why blogs link to each other, when that link risks sending traffic elsewhere.  Bloggers – being the narcissistic lot that we are – want more and more traffic, and – being the jealous lot that we are – we don’t want to send traffic anywhere else.  We tend to view web traffic as a zero-sum game – I get a page view at the expense of a “rival” blog which does not get a page view.

I do not claim to understand this entire paper.  Why?  Because in the middle, it has math like this:


Yeah, we’re not in Kansas anymore, folks.

The whole thing boils down to this:

A blogger links in order to credibly signal to the reader that he is high type on the ability to find news in other blogs. By doing so, his blog can become a destination site: A reader can gain access to news-breaking content even in cases when the blogger is unable to break the news on his own.

This is an interesting commentary on blogging and the projection of authority on the Net.  We try to be an authority, but the next best thing is knowing where to find the authority.  We provide value not only in the knowledge that we bring, but in our ability to connect people to knowledge provided by others.

I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point when he discussed the concept of the “maven”:

Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others.

Entire blogs have been developed around the concept of simply being a maven in a particular information space.