TOKYO — Japan’s largest business newspaper, the Nikkei, joined the trend of other news sites last week by requiring readers to pay to view its Web site. But, in a twist, it also imposed a policy severely restricting links to its articles — or even its home page.
Links to Nikkei’s home page require a detailed written application. Among other things, applicants must spell out their reasons for linking to the site.
Let's ignore for the moment the technical impossibility of blocking external links to a web page, or the legal obstacles in the way of prosecuting everyone around the world intent on flouting such a rule. Such minor* difficulties aside, why would any newspaper boss in his or her right mind wish to do such a thing? External links are essentially free advertising for one's content, and to the extent that said links are unsolicited and independent, they are the best kind of free advertising there is, as they indicate that someone found said content compelling enough to wish to share with others; to attempt to restrict such links is therefore the basest sort of stupidity. The decisions being made by the Nikkei's management will go down in the historical annals as a case study in how not to run an online news site in the Internet age.
*Note for the obtuse: I'm being sarcastic here.