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Why would you want to know who publishes a Web site?

The organization that sponsors a site can sometimes provide clues for further investigation. Educational, non-profit and commercial sites tend to sponsor different kinds of information. However, the sponsoring organization is no guarantee of quality. Does the fact that I trust Education Week mean I have to believe what Jamie Vollmer says in his speech?

screen shot of education week, featuring a story by Jamie Vollmer

A Web site publisher’s credentials are one of the few things that can be checked to invesitgate the authenticity and authority of the information found on a site. However, don't confuse the publisher with the author. In the example shown, Education Week had nothing to do with Mr. Vollmer’s speech; they simply made its contents public via the Web site they maintain. Does this make the information more authentic or authoritative? The answer to that requires investigative searching.

Publishers establish a reputation for printing specific types of articles, papers, images, sounds, etc. when they build their Web site. As they add and change the content, this perspective may stay the same or change, but it usually remains close to the original. Education Week will always print articles about educationally relevant topics, whether their categories remain: Home, Education Week, Teacher Magazine, Daily News, Archives, Special Reports, Issues A-Z, and State Info; or not.

How to determine the publisher of a Web site

cartoon representing electronic pubishing

The publisher's name is usually prominently displayed at the top or bottom of the Web site on each page. The copyright usually indicates the owner/publisher. If not, it could be found on an "About this Site" or "History" page. If all else fails, it may be possible to find the publisher by checking to see who owns the domain name. A Whois lookup can be queried using the site name and extension.

What does the organization have to say about itself? If that's hard to find, look for other pages on the same site.

  • Use the site map to help you find additional pages
  • If this strategy isn't available, try truncating the URL to find pages residing on the same server. The main home page of the organization is where you might find the most complete publisher information
  • Use a search engine to look for information about the targeted individual or organziation on other authoritative sites.

How to learn more about the publisher of a Web site

Is the site... Reliable, Established, Mission-stable, Sponsoring, Contactable?

  • How reliable is the publisher of the Web site?
  • Is this an established national or international organization?
  • What is the mission of the organization?
  • Is this site sponsoring the author's page or just providing Web space?
  • Does the site provide a contact for further information?

Is this an established national or international organization?

People tend to trust established national and international organizations more than small start ups. Can you tell which is which? What about starts ups by experts in the field?

Interpret the URL

  • implies a commercial organization, located in Germany, the sales department, and an advertisement. DO NOT go to this site, as it contains a known virus.
  • implies a not for profit organization, located in Australia, with its goal page published in the mission section of the Web site.
  • implies a personally published page in the United States. The tilde (~) indicates that.

Imagine that each of these pages supports your research. All claim to be real organizations. An expert in the field backs the ad. An expert in the field proposes the goal. George turns out to be an expert in the field, too. You can only use one of these resources. Which one would you choose and why?

What is the mission of the organization?

The “About this Site” or "History" pages may describe the purpose of the site. Organizations often even have a Mission page outlining exactly what their mission is and how they plan to attain their goals. This mission can help you decide questions like the one above. Organizations whose goals match those of your research may align with your work more closely than those whose goals do not. Opinion pieces will rely particularly on resources with clearly stated missions. Organizations with clearly stated missions can be trusted more than those without.

Is this site sponsoring the author's page or just providing Web space?

just giving page

Which site is sponsoring the author’s page and which is just providing Web space?

Site 1: JustGiving

JustGiving sponsors Tracy so that she can solicit donations from her friends and relatives around the world. She is walking across Iceland to raise money for Romanian children. “Justgiving is a private company dedicated to bringing the benefits of new technology to the business of charity fundraising.”

Site 2: Facebook Charity

Facebook only provides space for the Water Charity page. To find out more about the publisher investigate the water organization rather than Facebook itself.

Does the site provide a contact for further information?

Sites that provide names, email addresses, snail mail addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information make it possible to find out the details not published on their Web pages. Just the fact that they are willing to be contacted lets us know that they stand behind what they say and encourages us to trust them.

MM Companion

Who is the publisher of this tutorial?

The publisher of this learning unit is the 21st Century Information Fluency Project ( The .com in the URL indicates the publisher is a commercial site. By investigating the Mission of the site (About Us) you will discover this site used to be, an extension that is reserved for educational organizations.

IMSA is a state funded learning enterprise whose mission is to transform mathematics and science teaching and learning. When the federal grant that supported the 21cif project ended, IMSA granted the rights to the site content to the authors of the site, who own and maintain the site today. So the publisher has changed, but the authors are now also the publishers.

Authored by Lora K. Kaisler 2003 | Refreshed by Carl Heine, 2019