Professor Ronald Yaros of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism has completed a study that offers online journalists and educators a bit of needed guidance on when, and when not, to use hyperlinks in a news story.
Yaros’ study tested two versions of New York Times stories: an original version, written in traditional “inverted pyramid” style, and a rewritten version in which background and explanatory information appeared much earlier. In each version, Yaros tested whether reader comprehension improved by using traditional links to related websites, or by linking technical terms instead to explanatory text that opened in smaller windows.
The explainer stories with the links to explanatory text did best. But the explanatory links didn’t perform so well in the traditional, inverted pyramid version of the story. In that version, the one with the traditional links performed better.