Embedding objects in your news web site? The future may not thank you

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 10 April 2012

I’ve been doing an audit of old blog posts on this site, and come across a lot of things that are now sadly broken. In some cases this is external linkrot (the whole archive this article is about has disappeared for example), and in some cases it is due to changes in services.

In particular, at one point I was embedding screenshots of things that I’d done at the BBC via Flickr, and all these now seem to be broken. The images are still there on Flickr, but either the embed codes or my permissions or something else has changed, and I’m having to go back, re-crop the images, and put them back in manually.

Which is a lesson, I feel, for news websites that appear to increasingly rely on embedding foreign objects in their websites.

Whatever your view on the Facebook/Instagram deal, there was plenty of commentary on it published last night. A lot included embedded tweets or Storify round-ups of reaction. But what are people actually storing in their own CMS? Will all of these pages and articles become completely broken if Twitter started charging astronomical sums for embed codes, or if a social network acquired Storify and stopped allowing them to be embedded?

Using third party tools on a website is a great part of being digital, saves money, and allows journalists to experiment with new story-telling formats. However, relying on them entirely to power significant chunks of web content for a news organisation may leave a lot of gaps in the archives in years to come.

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