Links currency conversation on InternetDiscussion ensued on a couple fronts this week regarding mainstream media’s failure to link to the source for their stories – blogs and curated streams of blogged stories. Matthew Ingram (@mathewi) of GigaOm summarized the higher profile of the two when he asked “Is linking just polite, or is it a core value of journalism?”

Late last week, TechCrunch writer MG Siegler broke the news that Apple was buying an app-discovery service called Chomp — although he didn’t say where that news came from, just that it was a reliable source. The Wall Street Journal reported the same news several hours later, confirmed by an Apple source, but didn’t link to Siegler, who then wrote a profanity-laced tirade criticizing the WSJ for its failure to include a link to him in its story (we at GigaOM, meanwhile, wrote about why the acquisition made sense for Apple, and credited TechCrunch with breaking the story).

Picking up on the problem, Gabe Rivera (@gaberivera) of TechMeme, an aggregated feed of technology news often breaking stories, tweeted yesterday:

If news sites supplied “via” links (indicating where they found a story) just 10% of the time, you’d see 10x mentions of @Techmeme

Links are the currency of discussion on the Internet. Like it or not, whether it’s the mainstream media reporting for legacy publications and newspapers, bloggers, curated news feeds, or tweets, journalism is all one big conversation today. The Internet made sure of that. In any conversation etiquette requires referencing our source. In a conversation at the lunch counter between business people, one is apt to say “As Shelly mentioned…,” unless everyone at the counter heard Shelly. Heck, referencing a source comes naturally to people, it doesn’t even require thinking of what’s proper etiquette. With influence and thought leadership being measured by algorithms behind the scenes of the apparent net, linking to sources becomes all the more important – for both sides, the linked to, and the linker. Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a host of other social networks are going to present to us, by search or discovery, the influential sources and people relevant to us. Linking and sharing is how influence will be determined. Those not linking will be tipping their hand over time – that they may not be as influential per algoritms as the ‘non linker’ believes they are. Be smart out there. Link. It’s in your own self interest as well as the right thing to do.