3 Reasons for not Linking to Your Sources

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Writers get a lot of bad business advice. Some of it is so bad, that it’s just advice. There’s no business sense in it. One example is the call for to link to your sources.

I’m going to give you three reasons why it’s not a good idea to directly link to or uploading the sources of information that you use.

But before I jump into the reasons, let me make this clear. I am not saying that you shouldn’t cite your sources. I’m talking about disclosing the coordinates, meaning linking directly to a report, for example.

Got it? Okay. Let’s go.

#1) Making yourself irrelevant

Have you ever heard the saying never train someone to take your job?

The logic behind that saying is that it’s foolish to put someone in a position that allows them to take yours. And that’s what offering up your sources on a platter does.

We know all too well that a lot of what we see and hear online is regurgitated. Somebody picked it up from someone else, and someone is going to pick it up from them, and on it goes.

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When you link directly to your sources, you reduce the likelihood of being needed or getting cited.

For example, let’s say I’m writing a piece on a plane crash. That’s a story where there will be information coming from multiple agencies—the NTSB, the FAA, the state police, etc.

A lot of people either don’t know how and where to access information from those agencies or they just won’t put in the work.

If I have the know-how and the connections to get that information, and I put my story out, there’s at least some chance that others are going to cite me as the source. Another writer or podcaster may say something like, The NTSB concluded alcohol was a factor in the, according to KnowGoodWriter.

A lot of people aren’t going to want to own a statement like that without knowing for sure that’s what the NTSB said, so they’ll mention their source because they don’t want to be responsible.

But if I provide the NTSB report, they’ve now seen the information firsthand and can report it from a firsthand perspective. What’s the sense in mentioning me?

And even if I get the courtesy of being mentioned once, how far down the line do you claim a cousin?

If ABC gives me credit and says, The NTSB concluded alcohol was a factor, according to a report shared by KnowGoodWriter.

When DEF writes a story are they going to credit ABC and KnowGoodWriter?

And the person that gets the info from DEF, are they going to trace the family tree all the way back to the 4th cousin? Of course not.

And, you may even lose out on that initial reader who got the report from you. Because now that they know where to find the information for the next plane crash, they won’t need to go through you, they can go directly to the source. And you can thank yourself for leading them to it.

By directly linking to your sources, you set yourself up to quickly become irrelevant.


#2) Feeding the machine

A lot of creators are terrified of what AI is going to mean for them. They believe the machine is going to replace us.

If you’re one of them, understand that linking to your sources only makes it easier for your fears to become reality.

AI learns from what its fed. And when you connect human insight, like observations and conclusions directly to a source of information, like a report, you make the machine smarter. You position the machine to provide answers that, in many cases, it wouldn’t otherwise provide.

When you do that, not only are you feeding the machine to your own detriment, but you also double back to #1 on this list. You create a situation for other people to easily obtain the results you had to work for.

You put in all the sweat. AI comes and scrapes the information. Another writer asks the machine a question, and the machine will oblige with insight provided from you.

Even if you’re not particularly worried that AI will ruin your livelihood, you still don’t want to empower the machine to empower others to get the results you had to work for.

#3) Extracting value

By now, you’ve probably caught on to my line of thinking—finding and gathering sources is work. It takes time, effort, and in many cases, skill that others don’t have.

That means that sources are something of value. So, if you’re going to provide them, be smart and view them as a value-adding product that can help you earn more from what you do.

Benefit from being the source of sources. Instead of sharing, be a supplier. If someone wants to go through you to take a shortcut by getting what you’ve got without all the work, put a price tag on that access.

So, once again, I’m not saying not to cite your sources. In most cases, you have to do that. But think of it like a nutrition label. There’s a big difference between listing the ingredients and giving away the recipe.