24 October 2008


Welcome to the latest SPOTLIGHT post where we’ll be looking at the world of social bookmarking.

First up will be some definitions of this positively infant topic and then we’ll provide an overview of the current crop of social bookmarking sites and cast a glance at their history and development.

In Part II, we’ll see what all this means for journalists and how they can incorporate social bookmarking applications into their ever-expanding digital toolkits.

We’ll also examine how some mainstream media sites have started to utilise social bookmarking and check out some examples of innovation.

And we’ll finish up with a list of resources for anyone who wants to investigate this area further.

What Is Social Bookmarking?

According to Poynter’s interactivity editor Ellyn Angelotti, social bookmarking websites can be seen as the “virtual refrigerators” of the Web.

“Clipping articles from the newspaper and posting them on the refrigerator just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now social bookmarking sites serve as virtual refrigerators, giving users an unlimited number of magnets and much more surface area.”

This popular analogy captures the essence of social bookmarking – these are links that users can share with friends, groups or even the rest of the world.

So they work like browser bookmarks (such as Internet Explorer’s Favourites) in terms of enabling people to store and collect webpages and content of interest to them, but go a stage further by allowing these collections to be made public.

As usual, Common Craft has come up with an excellent video to show the basics:

Social Bookmarking – A Brief History

The term social bookmarking was coined by probably the best known bookmarking site, Delicious.

Launched in 2003, Delicious allows users to install browser buttons (known as bookmarklets) which make storing and sharing pages easy.

Initially it was used by people to save the URLs of static webpages they frequently visited or of articles of particular interest.

Fast forward a year or so and along came Digg, heralding two major changes for social bookmarking – a voting/rating system and an emphasis on articles with a temporal dimension.

Digg wasn’t alone for long and this trickle of social news sites soon resembled a flood, with each new site proclaiming its own killer features.

Hundreds of social news bookmarking sites now exist, each offering users a place to store, share and rate content and giving news providers a new place to find readers.

Described as “an outgrowth of social bookmarking” by freelance digital journalist David Cohn, the social news media has become a crucial sub-genre of bookmarking.

Most mainstream media sites have recognised this fact and are now getting in on the act, providing buttons at the end of articles encouraging readers to recommend it to one or all of the various bookmarking service providers.

So who are these providers? And what exactly do they provide?

Some You May Know

There are so many social bookmarking websites that it’s impossible to provide an overview of them all here so we’ve picked out some of the most common to mainstream users in the UK.

We’ve also thrown in a few lesser known ones at the end for good measure.


Self proclaimed as the “biggest collection of bookmarks in the universe”, Delicious is probably the best known social bookmarking site and also included as a share option on the vast majority of UK online newspapers.

Delicious allows Web users to share and save content and use their own tags to organise links, which can be shared via networks or kept private.

Visitors can also search all links by tags to find relevant material – for example you can search Delicious for all items to which users assigned social bookmarking tags.

Incidentally, it features as the only social bookmarking application in this year’s list of essential online tools for online journalists from lecturer and blogger Alfred Hermida.


Along with Delicious, this is the most popular bookmarking site among the UK digital media’s article share icons.

Members submit stories for digging and can help rank content by the digg or bury options.

Submissions which hit the front page reward the user with community ranking points, and reward the source with an influx of Digg traffic.

Cohn wrote this article for the Columbia Journalism Review explaining the appeal of Digg from the point of view of a community user and a news organisation.

And this JP Digital Digest post from earlier this year shows how Digg has now entered the news creation process too.


Another permanent fixture on many newspaper’s share buttons, StumbleUpon is a recommendation engine enabling users to endorse content they like and find communities of interest.

This Venture Beat article has some useful information on how it works for anyone interested in the algorithms and human filtering processes used by bookmarking sites.


Another mainstay on share options, the social news site Reddit awards so-called karma points to trusted posters and also recommends articles of interest.


Yes, it may be a social networking site but as long ago as 2006 Facebook entered the social bookmarking arena.

Its “share on Facebook” icon appears on hundreds of mainstream news websites and allows Facebook members to post text, photos and video to their profile pages.


More common in the US, NewsVine is owned by MSNBC and is a citizen journalism website as well as a bookmarking service.

Users can vote for articles and can also create same interest groups which can be public or private.

[Appears as a share option on regional sites owned by Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group and on national websites including DailyMail.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk, Telegraph.co.uk and Mirror.co.uk.]

And Some You May Not Know…


Standing for File Uniform Resource Locators, Furl is more of a general social bookmarking site with the usual rating and sharing options.

It also provides users with their own file space to save pages and clippings which they may have annotated themselves.

[Appears as a share icon on regional sites owned by Newsquest and on Mirror.co.uk.]


Described as the snarky side of social bookmarking, Fark takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the news with tags such as Dumbass, Strange, Stupid, and Asinine.

It’s often the destination for the weird and the photoshopped and features as a share button on TimesOnline, DailyMail.co.uk, Mirror.co.uk and Telegraph.co.uk.


One of the new faces on the bookmarking scene, Tip’d.com concentrates on financial news and investment tips.

Like Digg, members rate articles by tipping it and the most popular make it to the homepage.


The founding principle of NewsTrust is to promote articles which display “quality journalism”, so members are asked to rate articles against criteria such as sourcing and accuracy.

Add This

Websites can include the Add This widget on their site to enable users to click just one button and send content to a multitude of social bookmarking sites.

It’s not yet featured on many UK sites but one of the few that does have the widget is Mirror.co.uk.

Want To Know More?

Squidoo has this list featuring over 100 social bookmarking and networking websites for you to explore at your leisure.

While journalists may find Cohn’s guide to bookmarking sites a useful resource as he explains their nature through suggesting what print publication it would be (e.g. NewsTrust would be the New York Times etc).

And this Dosh Dosh article provides a useful introduction to social news sites and has some handy tips on how to find the relevant one for your needs and how to become an effective participant.

End Of Part One

So that’s it for Part I of this SPOTLIGHT post. Next week’s sequel will look at how journalists in mainstream media are engaging (or not) with social bookmarking tools, the pros and cons of doing so and some examples of innovation in this field.

In the meantime, please get in touch if you know of any innovative ways that media sites are using social bookmarking sites or if you have any other comments.

Until next time…

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