Politico’s media blogger, Dylan Byers (@dylanbyers), is predicting the death of the Sunday morning news shows that for decades have set the tone in American politics.

The public affairs shows — “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation” and “This Week” — used to set the agenda for the nation’s capital with their news-making interviews and immensely influential audience. Now the buzz around the shows is more likely to center on gossipy criticism about the hosts…

The reason for the decline is social media.

Increasingly, what “Meet the Press” and its competitors represent are still-powerful brands struggling to maintain influence in a radically changed media environment, where news consumption is more fast-paced and fractured than ever and “the news cycle” these shows used to command no longer really exists.

Per one former Democratic White House official:

There was a time when everything would stop on Friday afternoon and Cabinet members and senators would gather around a table and say, ‘Who are we putting out on Sunday?’ Now if you want to make news, you can tweet it, or you can call any number of outlets.

Amazing to think of “institutions” crumbling as a result of empowering everyone with a smartphone to publish, broadcast, and engage the audience they wish to reach.

Let alone the social publishing impact one’s message has when the message is disseminated to “friends” and “followers” who trust the messenger more than a national broadcasting company.

Law firms have always played in the “influencer’s world,” whether locally or nationally.

In rural America in a small law firm I wanted to be on the evening news or in the morning newspaper discussing a case I was involved in or offering insight on a story a reporter was working on.

Large law firms positioned their lawyers as authorities so as to get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the New York Times and major periodicals such as Forbes, The Economist, Barrons, and Fortune. They also chased being sources in the major metro daily newspapers and business journals.

In addition to mainstream media, everyone wanted to pen a story or be included in a story in trade media, whether legal or industry related. The Recorder, New York Journal, Lawyers Weekly, and Los Angeles Daily Journal are just a few of them.

Television was also there as well for lawyers. Getting on the national news as an expert was a big deal.

But are these as big a deal as before? Are they essential to your messaging strategy? Does your story or the fact that you were in or on the news break through any more? Would you pay as much to your public relations agency to get your lawyers “in the news?”

I was on a panel recently with social media analyst, Ashwini Anburajan (@anburajan), a former associate producer of the Today Show and national campaign reporter for NBC News. I was pretty jazzed sitting next to someone who worked in network news. Her response was something to the effect of “Please, do you have any idea how old the demographic is for network television? It’s not long for the world.”

Will the media institutions you and I grew up with (I am 58) be relevant for that much longer? Will they even be around? Look at Martindale-Hubbell.

Will everyone be getting their media socially? It’s a real possibility.

Today already younger people (think 18 to 35) are more likely to be influenced by something they see or read via social media than through the mainstream press or trade media.

NBC News Veteran, Tom Brokaw, told Byers, “For political junkies and those who just want to catch up, the Sunday shows still are relevant, but they’re not the signature events they once were.”

For you as a lawyer or law firm, whether large or small, whether in rural America or a major metro, you are going to need to produce your own media and learn how to get that media distributed socially.

The media institutions you used to use are not likely to be signature events for that much longer.

  • John Bowie

    Your penultimate paragraph is spot on . . lawyers need to blog and write via social media because like it or not that is where the action will be. It’s like “House of Cards” turning the cable model on its head and iTunes changing the music business and everything else that’s ‘distermediating’. If you’re not on social media you’re just not on.
    John Bowie

  • I don’t think so – to answer the blog title. Older people have money. Older people vote. Older people own property. There’s been a huge transfer of wealth to the older generations in the last few decades – the financial crisis and its effects have only exacerbated the shift further. Here in the UK, the over 50s own about three quarters of the housing wealth. I’m sure the US stats are similar. That means they’re more engaged in their communities, they have more influence, they are active in government and policy. They vote. And these people still buy newspapers, and watch political talk shows, and are receptive to traditional media. I love social media but it won’t do away with the older stuff just yet.

    • Good point about the amount of wealth in the hands of the older generations and that these folks media consumption habits are not changing that fast. I wonder though who is creating the wealth and if those creating the wealth (corporations run by people in their 30’s & 40’s) are the ones with the greatest legal needs. It would be interesting to overlay the type/$ amount of legal work being done by law firms and the age of the decision makers procuring that legal work.

  • this is an excellent post about an excellent topic. I believe the more contentious or noteworthy issues in law appear to be more robustly discussed on blogs, versus traditional legal media. Many legal-focused bloggers often become very interesting subject matter experts – and their opinions are being heavily relied upon by many. Bruce MacEwen certainly is one. He has on a few occasions suggested, for example, that law firms ought to have R&D departments. And ReinventLaw has focused on this for the emerging legal technology arena, something increasingly important. The legal press is unlike the political press in that it appears the legal press does not have the same inquisitive predisposition. The legal press in my opinion appears generally accepting of many issues in law that have begun to be debated among legal bloggers. I think in the future traditional media will be one of a group of alternative sources of news and information. Above the Law also provides alternative coverage of law that traditional legal media doesn’t tend to. The legal press tends to be static in that they are heavily oriented toward their advertisers or sponsors. So out of the mainstream stories won’t be their focus. Hence many alternative viewpoints about many issues like Swiss Verein mergers, mergers in general, lateral hiring relative value as a revenue generator and other issues around law firm profitability, may or arguably do get more broad debate in blogs vs traditional legal media. It will be interesting to see how the future unfolds. But I believe ultimately we’ll see more blogs integrated into mainstream media – and mainstream media perhaps emulating blogs – so their could be a media culture that is an amalgamation of the two.