Links are dead, long live the card?

Fighting clutter and distraction, a Dutch website called De Correspondent now bans links inside articles.

Our publications don’t contain any traditional in-text links. This prevents a lot of the possible clutter and reasons to leave, usually found in many articles. When we want to tell a story, we’d like you to take it in from start to end. There is a flow we would like you to follow. We introduce you into a topic, investigate our findings and come to some kind of conclusion. If we gave our readers too many options to leave the article before finishing it, we wouldn’t get to convey whatever it is we want to convey.

The editors offer writers three tools in lieu of links within articles, an info card, a side note and a featured link.

The info card:

This piece of additional content is only presented when you have a need for it by clicking on the indicator behind the name or term mentioned in the story. Because, by default, it is in a closed state, you are able to easily skip over it when you do have the required background knowledge. Opening it however adds the additional information inline in the text so you don’t have to wander your eyes to another part of the page. Your eyes will never have to leave the main story and you can keep continue reading the story as if this addition was part of it in the first place.

The side note:

It functions as a regular link, but is placed next to the related paragraph and has a label that describes the content that was linked to. Next to this, every side note has an icon indicating the type of content you are about to see, like a video, audio fragment or report. The added benefit, of presenting our links in the bar next to the article, besides clearing the text of links, is that it functions as sort of a checklist. No need to remember the exact location of an interesting link for later consumption. Just quickly scroll past the article to get an overview of all the relevant additional information that might interest you.

And the featured link:

On our platform such important links, which we refer to as ‘featured links’, are placed underneath the article. Placing them down there ensures enough attention and focus on the reader’s side for the story covering it and as an added bonus, it consistently places important links in a manner everybody knows where to find them.

All are noble experiments. Personally I don’t find links to be distracting: when I’m enjoying an article and see a link, I right click and open it in a new tab to read later… or shove it over into Pocket to read much later. But De Correspondent has 30,000 paying subscribers, so they may be on to something.