WP Tavern’s Sarah Gooding reports that publishers are moving back to WordPress after short experiments with Medium, a free online publishing platform.

Medium’s original business model was two-fold, to serve as a platform for subscription based publications which would put up articles behind a paywall and to run native advertising (advertorials) in a publisher’s content.

In January of this year, the CEO and co-founder of Medium, Ev Williams announced that the company’s business model wasn’t working and laid off one third of the company. Though Medium remains live and provides a nice publishing interface, it’s yet to come up with a viable buisiness model.

Medium’s business model was never a good fit for publishing professionals, ala lawyers. Lawyers’ publications were hugely important to them in building name and relationships, but subscription and ad revenue was not what they were after.

What lawyers and legal professionals should make note of here is the risk publishers, including lawyers, run when not controlling their own publishing and publication. Publishing for free on something that feels good to start with can have problems down the road.

Gooding shared what Film School Rejects (FSR) founder Neil Miller had to say.

“What we were sold when we joined their platform is very different from what they’re offering as a way forward,” Miller told Poynter. “It’s almost as if Ev Williams wasn’t concerned that he was pulling out the rug from underneath publishers who had placed their trust in his vision for the future of journalism.”

After moving FSR back to WordPress, Miller said the partnership with Medium was great until the company changed course to become a different type of platform.

“As time went on, it became clear that Medium’s priorities had shifted from being a platform for independent publishers to being itself a publisher of premium, subscription-based content,” he said. “As we learned more about their future plans for the now-existent Medium ‘Members Only’ program, it became clear that our site wouldn’t be able to continue to operate the way we always had.”

Miller said the process of trying a new platform and returning to WordPress made him realize that he “missed some of the customizable features of WordPress,” which led his team to work on some new features they will be launching in the future. The site has reinstated its banner advertising on pages.

And, via Poynter, that Judd Legum, founder of ThinkProgres, one of the largest publications to make the move to Medium, believes Medium is no longer even being developed with publishers in mind.

“I’m certainly not eager to have a bunch of ads on the site — and we’re not going to,” Legum said. “I’d love to have none. And if it were possible, I’d be interested in figuring out a model where we don’t have to have any. But if it’s connected to a platform that’s not going to be developed with publishers in mind, it doesn’t really make sense to think through that as a platform. That sealed it for me.”

ThinkProgress is taking its 8 to 10 million unique pageviews per month back into the independent publishing space. It is the latest of several other publishers leaving Medium after having been persuaded in 2016 to jump into Ev Williams’ experiment with initial promises of free hosting, more traffic, and advertising money.

Not all of the larger sites Gooding found exiting Medium went to WordPress. One went to Vox Media and another is publishing as part of Wired.

Medium’s new subscription model with users paying five dollars a month to help out and receive some “premium content” is still in beta. But as Gooding concludes, “…[P]ublishers moving away from Medium are not willing to stay on for the the startup’s experiment at the expense of their writers and staff.”

As I have said before, I am not one to bet against Ev Williams, the co-founder of Blogger and Twitter. He’s done some great stuff in publishing.

But if you are a lawyer or other professional, you just need to control your own publishing platform. And when working with third parties, as you must to some extent, make sure their business model is alignment with your business model.

Facebook is a great place for publishing. Clean mobile interface, easy to key in content (even with my thumbs) and a built in audience for engagement.

There’s also no intimidation factor. When you open Facebook, free flow thinking is easy to get down “on paper.” With WordPress, it’s somehow a big deal. A blank screen makes you think that something more seminal needs to be published.

I am not talking personal versus professional. I regularly post professionally, that is matters relating to tech, publishing and business development, on Facebook. So much so that I often copy and paste posts from Facebook to my blog. This one I am penning on WordPress.

But I can’t blog on Facebook – for any number of reasons.

  1. I need to own and control my publishing. Facebook doesn’t allow this. If Facebook goes away or decides to change what can be viewed, my body of work goes away.
  2. My body of work is something that people should be able to access and review as part of sizing up who I am. As with a practicing lawyer, people should have the opportunity to see my interests, how I adresss issues and how I give back to the legal profession as a whole. I need the books and my pubications I authored — my blog — on the shelf. My blog gives me this. Not possible with Facebook.
  3. Google has become the world’s reference library. Relevant information from influential sources is available at your finger tips. Not with Facebook.

Dave Winer (@davewiner), the inventor of blogging who’s gone back and forth publishing on his blog, Scripting News, and Facebook over the last couple years (always leaving a record of his full post at his blog), is now back solely on his blog – for a whole lot of reasons, including the importance of the open web.

Winer also points out four features blogs have, which Facebook refuses to add.

  1. Links. How do you reference and advance discussion without citations, let alone how you engage those you are referencing in your writing.
  2. Simple styling.
  3. Enclosures for podcasting.
  4. Titles. We need to be able to charactertise that to which we are “permalinking” and to have a title to be indexed by Google.

To which I’ll add a few more.

  1. Images
  2. Graphs, charts — may be included in styling
  3. Custom features — this could get hairy, just as plugins do on a hosted WordPress platform. In the law, a blog platform requires a built-in “primary law citator” so that links to cases, codes and regs are available and linked to “open law.” Items such as multilevel editorial controls are also required by many legal publishers.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook and will continue to post and engage there, it’s just not blogging.

What I need to get better at — again — is blogging on blogging software, which in my cases is LexBlog’s managed WordPress platform. Reflect and gather my thoughts on what I am reading, like this from Winer, and blog.

How many posts are needed to launch a law blog? One. And I’m serious.

Too many lawyers and law firms take all the fun out of blogging before they even get started by working on a series of blog posts before they take their law blog live.

You know how hard it is to sit down and pen four or five articles? It’s not fun — not even for three or four lawyers pooling their efforts.

A law blog is not like penning articles, a blog can be a lot of fun.

You get to put your thoughts and insight out there, live on the Internet. No matter what anyone says, sitting down at the keyboard and then pushing the publish button for the first time is an adrenalin rush. A little angst, but a lot of excitement.

When have you had the chance to take something live to the Internet before? And minutes after you penned your piece.

You want more blog posts? You’ll get them when someone has their pride on the line.

You publish a blog post and you have ownership. That’s you out there. You’ll be looking to add more posts, if for no other reason than ego and pride.

There is no way you’re going to generate that type of excitement for your second, third and fourth blog post when you’re penning them on a Word doc over a month’s time. That’s painful.

The only thing that sounds more painful is sitting in a conference room over lunch with lawyers and marketing professionals discussing the first blog post and the upcoming ones we’ll be doing before the blog goes live.

A law blog is something which enables a lawyer or group of lawyers to enter into an ongoing discussion in a niche area of the law or locale. A blog is not the definitive resource on a subject — especially on day one.

Starting a law blog is akin to saying I, or we, are going to start networking through the Internet in a way that builds our name and nurtures relationships. Like networking offline, you begin by just getting out and networking.

A columnist in a publication starts publishing by penning her first article. You need not see four articles before you decide whether her commentary is interesting or of value.

Blogs are unique in that the content is distributed virally. By emails, by sharing on LinkedIn, on Twitter and on Facebook. When you get your first post out there, no one is looking for the next three to hit them in the face, one after another.

You need not worry about someone coming at your blog after your first post and saying I would have subscribed to this blog if it just had three more posts. No authority here, only one post — too bad for that lawyer. C’mon.

Blogs grow on people. The first post, and even the next two, are not going to wow anyone.

Know that the smallest audience you will ever have on your blog will be when you launch your blog. One post is okay.

Those who come, and it will not be too many (you don’t publicize the launch of a blog), will be interested if you’re focusing on a niche, offering some insight beyond summaries of the law and write in a conversational tone.

View the first post, as it should be viewed, as a start.

As a lawyer you’ll not write in an embarrassing way, but you’ll blog poorly, but not forever. Practice, like with anything, will bring improvement. All the good law bloggers had to start somewhere.

Sure, proof that first post. I must have sat in the coffee shop for a couple hours with a printed draft of my first post. Other lawyers will have a spouse, child or colleague proof their posts.

If you’re itching to do that next post before you launch your blog, mark it draft on your publishing platform or set it to go live four or five days later.

I see far too many blogs with four to six posts, or more, on the day the blog launches and then one or two over the next two or three months. It looks lame, and a sign that the fun was taken out of law blogging before you ever got started.

Relax, as much as you can starting a blog, and have some fun.

New York VC and long time blogger, Fred Wilson is a big believer that blogging prepares you to speak well.

…If you have to speak publicly a lot, particularly in unscripted situations, I would suggest you write publicly regularly as well.

Why?

…Writing regularly makes it so much easier to speak publicly in unscripted situations.

Writing forces you to work out your views and articulate them clearly and concisely.

Then when you are asked a question related to those views, you have already worked out the answer.

It is in the brain, waiting there to come out crisply and concisely.

I couldn’t agree more.

Unlike many other speakers, I don’t script or overly prepare my talks.

I gather my thoughts on what I think would help and inspire the audience, outline my thoughts and reduce my outline to a deck, something I find a necessary evil for conference organizers.

After I hear others speak and get a feel of the conference, I’m prepared to share my thoughts in my talk.

The stories, ideas and what I’m thinking as I talk are all basically pulled from my blogging.

I don’t mean that I have gone back and read my blog in preparation, but that blogging represents my thinking over time. What’s between my ears is my blogging.

Like Fred, I’ve been writing (blogging or posting on Facebook) on near a daily basis for going on fourteen years. It’s a huge body of work and thinking. Not all of my writing is still relevant, but much is.

My views have evolved as well, but that’s okay. That helps me with context as a I talk to an audience.

As Fred says, blogging and speaking “work incredibly well together.”

The ABA Journal shared a list of 12 candidates for the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors as well as the candidate for President of the ABA.

I was struck that no where in the ABA Journal’s listing of the candidates did it include the personal social media accounts or blogs of the candidates. My cynical side wonders if the candidates even use Twitter and Facebook. Do they blog so as to express their passion and network with influencers with similar passions?

There was little I knew about these folks. I wondered how much other lawyers knew about the candidates. How were we going to find out about them – from them – if they didn’t use the Internet?

Today, we get to know people faster and in a more real way than ever before. It’s because of the Internet, and in particular social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook).

We hear people’s voices in a real and authentic fashion. We feel people’s passion as they speak to us directly. We build trust with each other via immediate and personal online exchange. We even get to know people as people, outside of their professional lives.

I could look up each candidate and find out how they use social media. I fear it may only make me mad that these folks may not be doing what they can to connect with lawyers and the average people in this country. I fear it may make me mad that they are not serving as role models to American lawyers to jump on the Internet to learn, to network, engage people, build a name and advance causes important to you.

These folks are charged with advancing the causes of veteran’s legal challenges, access to legal services, innovation/technology in law practice management and human rights. To learn, connect and engage lawyers and the American people so as to truly advance these causes these candidates, more so than other lawyers, need to be using the same communication medium the rest of us use – social media and the Internet.

Current President of the ABA, Linda Klein, uses Twitter to engage lawyers (even yahoo’s like me) and the public. General counsel, in-house counsel, managing partners and lawyers everywhere use Facebook, Twitter and blogging to network, learn and evangelize causes important to them and their organizations. Nothing prevents ABA officials from using the Internet to connect and engage except fear.

I hope that the ABA Journal and the candidates will come back at me showing me and lawyers everywhere how they are indeed personally using social media. It wouldn’t be the first time I was told to kiss off by the ABA.

I’m a small town trial lawyer by trade.

Over seventeen years, I made it to county courthouses in cities the likes of Viroqua, Prairie du Chien, Sparta, Black River Falls, Whitehall and Mauston. Occasionally I made it to courts in Madison, Minneapolis and Chicago.

I don’t believe I was ever invited to speak to a legal industry group. And only once was I asked to pen an article for publication.

Not in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned being invited to speak in Europe to an international audience of lawyers, technology executives and in-house counsel.

Two weeks ago that’s where I was. In Amsterdam at the Lexpo legal innovation and technology conference presenting on the power of blogging and social media.

Out of the blue last fall I received a call asking if I could speak and what my fee and expenses would be. Amazing, “Could you come to Amsterdam, some place you’ve never been, we’ll pay your way and put you up. You really should bring your wife as you’re already being paid to come to Europe.”

Hey, maybe Rob Ameerun, Lexpo’s founder and organizer didn’t say exactly that, but it sounded just like that to me. It was certainly something that was going to make me a star at home – we hadn’t been to Europe since we backpacked and hitchhiked across the Continent on $10 a day thirty-five years ago.

The reason I was in Europe was simple. I blog.

Rob and the person who recommended me to Rob knew of me and my passion for blogging and social media, the subject of my talk, because of my blog publication, Real Lawyers Have Blogs.

Wilder to me still was that, as a result of blogging and social media, people from any number of countries at the conference knew who I was. Invites to speak in London and Lithuania followed.

I’m not alone when it comes to American blogging lawyers being invited to Europe this spring.

Veteran law bloggers, Jordan Furlong and Ron Friedmann, joined me as speakers at Lexpo.

Staci Riordan, long time fashion law blogger and chair of Nixon Peabody’s fashion practice, is featured today in the International Trademark Association (INTA) Daily News for her presentation in Barcelona yesterday on advocating for a brand on social media, as a social media influencer yourself.

From Barcelona Staci is on her way to Tokyo and Seoul to speak. As she tags her Facebook posts, a bit in jest, “#lifeoffashionlawyer.”

Staci was not alone in Barcelona. From long time China law blogger, Dan Harris over the weekend:

If you are going to be in Barcelona during INTA 2017, please let us know via an email to firm@harrisbricken.com and we will do our utmost to have one of our lawyers meet up with you there. Four of our lawyers will be there throughout the conference, including two of our lawyers from our Barcelona office, Nadja Vietz and Joaquin Cabrera. In addition to our home-grown talent, Mike Atkins (world famous for his Seattle Trademark Lawyer Blog) and Alison Malsbury (who spoke at INTA last year on cannabis trademarks) will also be attending.

All of the U.S. lawyers Dan mentioned got to Barcelona as a result of blogging. Heck, in addition to a successful international practice, Dan’s firm has built perhaps the leading cannabis practice in the country on the back of the Canna Law Blog.

Crazier yet, Dan’s letting 10,000 conference attendees from 140 countries know to look up he and his colleagues while in Barcelona — via one of the most widely read international legal publications, his firm’s China Law Blog.

Then this morning I see the dean of law blogging with his LawSites blog, Bob Ambrogi share on Facebook a picture of his home for the next week. A Danube River cruiseboat leaving from Munich.

Bob’s known internationally for his expertise on the Internet and legal technology, in large part because of his blogging. As a result he’s going to be teaching at a bar association conference cruising the Danube.

I don’t share these stories to impress you, but to impress upon you the opportunity that blogging presents you as a lawyer.

Of course you need to have some expertise, blogging is not “fake it till you make it.” But blogging puts you on the map, builds a name for you and makes you an attractive speaker for conference organizers to invite. Stars attract an audience.

Know that the lawyers here have built their names with a blog. They’re not writing articles published in a section of a law firm website claiming to be a blog.

These lawyers and I sought to go out and connect and engage on the Internet with an independent publication, our blogs, and the use of ancillary social media, including Twitter and Facebook. We built a brand for a blog publication and ourselves.

Sure, prominent lawyers who do not blog will be invited to speak at conferences around the world just as they always have. But small town kids like me wouldn’t get there without blogging.

Are individual lawyers relying too much on their law firm’s marketing professionals, as opposed to taking charge of their own marketing?

Building a book of business as a lawyer has always been about building a name for yourself and building a network of relationships. So marketing departments in law firms can help, but they cannot turn a lawyer into one with a good book of business. This takes initiative on a lawyer’s part. Marketing professionals would probably agree.

But today with many law firms struggling, AI/software soon to be doing the work some lawyers are doing and corporations (LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, Avvo and others) picking up a good junks of the transactional legal services market, it sure seems that lawyers would be foolish not to be scrambling to build a name for themselves.

Large and medium size law firm leaders, and the lawyers employed in these firms, who think they’ll withstand the changes taking place sound a lot like the newspaper publishers and media players of 10 years ago. Or maybe like Macy’s, the nation’s largest traditional retailer, who is closing stores as people turn to the net for shopping.

A senior lawyer in a 400 lawyer firm told me a couple months ago that he doesn’t expect his firm to survive, at least in its present form. “In-house counsel may get fired for not using Cravath, but not for failing to use his firm,” he explained in making the point that rates are going down, in-house counsel are bringing efficiencies with technology and corporations are bringing more work in-house.

The Internet is a fabulous place for a lawyer to build a name and relationships. But it’s not going to happen with a group blog lacking passion (especially one inside of a website), profiles of lawyers and driving traffic to websites and content.

The Internet works best for lawyers when they learn how to engage influencers, prospective clients, clients and referral sources in a real and authentic way. Personal law blogging and the use of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, not for attention, SEO and traffic, but to establish yourself as a trusted authority in a niche and build relationships is the key.

What had to be the pinnacle of employment in sports media, ESPN just laid off over 100. Many were household names. I am sure the sportswriters and announcers who worked their tail off to get to ESPN never envisioned ESPN running into trouble as a result of the Internet overnight changing the way sports is broadcast and delivered.

Turns out that companies like Comcast, DirecTV and Dish are losing subscribers. People are turning to the net, mobile apps more than anything, for sports.

Change can happen — and fast. Chasing partnership track at a medium or large law firm can sound great as a young lawyer. What happens though when things start to soften and then dramatically change all around you? It’s not as if you just slide over to the other ESPN (large law firm).

Sure, you can work in larger law, but while there, use the firm as a platform to build a name and relationships via the Internet, personally. It’s in your mutual interest and you’ll be in a position to more than support yourself in the future.

What’s better, ALM’s collective legal periodicals or the collective work of lawyers and other legal professionals who are blogging? Can ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media) survive the rising phenomenon of lawyers and law students blogging on an open WordPress platform to build a name and build a business?

Fifteen years ago no sane person would have raised this question. But a lot has changed since then.

I picked up a subscription to ALM’s aggregated Law.com feed for my news aggregator this year.

A few reasons for buying the subscription. One, there were ALM stories I would see in my feeds on Feedly that were behind the ALM paywall. I wanted to read the stories and share relevant ones with my followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Two, I wanted to build relationships with ALM reporters and editors. With the high ALM turnover, I didn’t know as many people there. What better way to get to know them than to share their stories on Twitter.

Three, ALM reporters were reporting on interesting subjects I wanted to learn more about.

And four, by tweeting and blogging about the subjects of their stories I could build relationships with the people and companies being covered.

Though there are items on ALM not reported elsewhere, usually on the business of law, I was struck by the brevity of many stories and, often, the shallowness of the analysis and reporting.

Made me wonder if law blogging was not on the verge of replacing ALM and other publications as the source of legal news and analysis. LexBlog platform bloggers already publish upwards of 200 posts a day — and there’s some good stuff.

Lawyers have deep subject matter expertise and those who blog well have an unmatched passion for what they cover.

Blogging lawyers are often active on social media, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social media establishes trust and sources.

Social media, person to person, moves news and commentary today. Unlike reporters at the New York Times and even a few at the ABA Journal, I am not seeing many ALM reporters actively me and others on Facebook and other social media.

Legal moves slow. Lawyers hold on to what they’ve had in the past. Legal PR often looks for “earned media” versus more the more influential commentary that moves across blogs and social media. All pluses for ALM.

The value of editors will of course be the rebuttal of some. But Facebook is the leading source of news for a growing number of people in the country, including the majority of millennials.

News is what other people report and share. News is not defined by who is reporting.

Blogs haven’t nailed curation yet. That’s coming though.

Today, ALM may have “a winning hand” with have all the stuff in one place. But technology curating WordPress published legal news and information with AI components could relegate ALM to the slow lane in the next few years.

WordPress is by far and away the most popular and, arguably, the most powerful publishing and content management system that exists. Its world-wide community of open-source developers is delivering improvements and feature enhancements (including curation) at a far far faster clip than developers working on a proprietary platform, such as the one ALM is likely using.

I remain a subscriber to ALM’s Law.com feed, I like some of the stuff. I am sure they have a large subscriber base.

I just wonder if ALM represents the future of legal publishing with the growing popularity of blogging by passionate lawyers and law students with deeep expertise using publishing software that is more advanced.

Technologist and inventor of the blog, Dave Winer, defined a blog as “the unedited voice of a person.”

In 2003, when I was beginning my stint as a fellow at Berkman Center [at Harvard Law School] , since I was going to be doing stuff with blogs, I felt it necessary to start by explaining what makes a blog a blog, and I concluded it wasn’t so much the form, although most blogs seem to follow a similar form, nor was it the content, rather it was the voice.

If it was one voice, unedited, not determined by group-think — then it was a blog, no matter what form it took. If it was the result of group-think, with lots of ass-covering and offense avoiding, then it’s not. Things like spelling and grammatic errors were okay, in fact they helped convince one that it was unedited. (Dogma 2000 expressed this very concisely.)

I’m pretty much with Winer so it pains me to see what blogs have become in the legal industry — and across the corporate communications field for that matter.

I get that law firms are going to have group blogs with multiple contributors. Makes sense. There are some good ones.

But group blogs, and any blog, can be the unedited voice of a lawyer when lawyers cover and comment on items they’re most passionate about.

Most law blog subjects cast a broad net so letting lawyers each blog on what they are individually seeing and reading so as to engage in thought leadership in a real and authentic way works big time. Readers feel it — and so do the law bloggers.

Posts do not, and should not be approved by an editor. Doing so in any significant way throws water on the fire of good law bloggers. It’s hard enough blogging sometimes, let alone blogging and wondering what my editor is going to think.

I met a young lawyer in the Midwest who had a great idea for a blog. A real strategic commercial construction niche opportunity in which, among other things, he was going to engage and build relationships with overseas financiers and developers investing in his metropolitan area.

But every one of his blog posts needed to be edited by the chair of his practice group. The blog posts “sat on the desk” of the chair for a week or more. The young lawyer threw in the towel, no more blogging. The blog was “taken down.”

The lawyer and the firm was deprived of an opportunity to grow. I’m sure the associate has received various kinds of pressure to grow a book business otherwise. What a shame.

The best law blogs are not marketing, per se. Sure, a lawyer is going to build a name and business through blogging. But law blogging is part of legal dialogue, scholarship, commentary and information. It’s the stuff lawyers did long before legal marketing was approved ethically forty years ago this June.

Lawyers pen emails, letters, briefs and more. Lawyers go to networking events and conferences in areas the law they’re passionate about and openly discuss things.

Marketing can empower lawyers to blog and help facilitate blog publishing, but it makes little sense for marketing to be involved in blogging.

Blogging platforms themselves are as easy to use as email and writing on Word. Asking or accepting that lawyers “blog” on Word so others can copy and paste to the blog platform makes no sense. Lawyers will also never feel the sensation of blogging.

Hey, I get the spelling and grammar thing for lawyers. Do know though that I have better relationship with my readers as a result of them correcting my typos from time to time. Run a spell check, but focus on engaging in a conversation just as you would at a networking event, not the form.

Don’t get me started with others writing a lawyer’s blogs, as some marketers are selling. That’s nuts, unethical and certainly not the unedited voice of a person. Doesn’t even merit discussion.

We’re starved in this country for the real and authentic voice of a lawyer engaging with real people – corporate employees or consumers.

Blogs are the perfect vehicle for expressing the voice of a lawyer.

But make it the unedited voice of a person.

While some law firm website developers are advising law firms to bury law blogs inside a law firm website, a just released ABA book on strategic online publishing for law firms advises just the opposite. Law blogs should be located off websites on a separate domain to build influence, achieve better seach engine performance (SEO) and generate business.

In fact, the authors, Steve Mathews (@stevematthews) and Jordan Furlong (@jordan_law21), both veteran and widely respected legal publishers and business development professionals, are seeing a growing trend by law firms to move blog publications off their websites.

Their new book, “Creating an Online Publishing Strategy for Law Firms,” provides lawyers and law firms with all they need to know about turning their firm’s content marketing (e.g. writing, newsletters, and blogging) into a coherent, effective and strategic online publishing campaign.

Key for Matthews And Furlong was to provide a step-by-step guide offering advice and ideas for building and maintaining an effective online publishing strategy that can communicate a lawyer’s and law firm’s expertise and enhance their profile with target clientele. In addition to large law firms, their book is useful for small and midsize law firms, from at least 10 lawyers up to as many as 100.

Topics include:

  • Designing a strategy to guide publishing efforts and integrate them with business development and branding plans
  • Choosing the best platforms for content, including blogs, newsletters and more
  • Distributing content through a variety of channels, from magazines and other old media to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other new media
  • Creating a publishing culture within a firm that motivates participation and contributions to the publishing strategy
  • Measuring the effectiveness of a firm’s publishing efforts, including the best metrics and tools to gauge the return on your investments

Blogs are the easiest, most effective, and most accessible form of legal publishing, per the authors.  But publishing content is not enough, “distributed publishing” is needed for a lawyer or law firm industry group to create a dominate market presence and generate business.

Law firms are moving their blog publishing away from their websites to create this market dominance and generate business.

Firms that originally tended to keep all their public content within the strict boundaries of their website gradually became more willing to locate that content beyond the website, isolating content for each target market on a web platform affiliated with the firm in some way (e.g., blogs, microsites, etc.).

Over the past several years, social media have been offering firms the opportunity to share that content even farther, outside of their own website and related platforms altogether. From our perspective, these two trends — locating content beyond the website, and circulating content throughout the internet — form the backbone of a strategic approach to both content creation and circulation that we call “distributed publishing.”

The authors do a nice job of explaining the logic of this strategy.

Distributed publishing involves a “hub-and-spokes” model of content delivery. Think of your law firm website as the central hub, the headquarters of your firm’s internet presence and its most valuable assets (home page, lawyer biographies, and practice descriptions). Now move out from that hub to an “inner ring” of spokes representing the firm’s complementary content platforms (blogs, microsites, etc.). This hub and this inner ring constitute most… of your firm’s content production.

Now move out farther again, and you’ll encounter a huge “outer ring” of spokes of third-party content production and distribution engines: a diverse assortment of trade periodicals, online news services, and most importantly, social media networks. These entities will distribute your content to a much wider audience than your own firm-affiliated web products could manage.

The three component parts of this “distributed publishing” ecosystem — your website home base (hub), your satellite firm-owned content destinations (first ring of spokes), and the vast array of content production and distribution networks (second ring of spokes) — all work together to establish the powerful, diverse, interlinked network of your firm’s online presence.

Blogs away from websites are more influential to clients and prospective clients.

Firms need this diverse presence in order to impress an increasingly sophisticated client market. When people need the services of a lawyer and conduct an online search, among the most important factors they consider is information about the lawyer located elsewhere than the lawyer’s website. Potential clients are likelier to be impressed by a lawyer with a website biography, a LinkedIn profile, blog contributions, a Twitter feed, shared presentation slides, third-party publications, and relevant legal industry tweets, than with a lawyer who has just a website biography alone. Law firms with farther-reaching and higher-quality online “footprints” generated by these multiple presences also tend to score more highly in search engine results.

The authors provide a diagram of the “spoke-and-hub” to strategic law firm publishing where you’ll see blogs at the first ring out from a firm’s website.

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Matthews and Furlong know their stuff. I have know each of them for a long time, have the utmost respect for them and find them not only on top of their game, but also very giving of their time to the industry through their own publishing, speaking and social media activity.

Mathews, president and founder of Stem Legal Web Enterprises, a web development, publishing and strategy company for the legal profession has been working within the online legal environment for almost 20 years (including 12 years inside law firms). He’s conceived, managed, coded and marketed law firm websites, blogs, intranets, portals and extranets. Of partcular note for those claiming blogs inside websites are better for search engine performance, Mathews is recognized as one of the leading authorities on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for lawyers and law firms.

Furlong is a lawyer, consultant and legal industry leader, who previously served as the editor of National, the publication of record for the Canadian Bar Association (equivalent of ABA Journal). As a senior consultant with legal web development company Stem Legal Web Enterprises, he advises lawyers and law firms on content marketing and consults regarding the establishment and execution of publishing strategies. He’s also widely respected on the business of law in the future.

I don’t say this to impress you with Fuhrlong and Matthews, but to impress upon you that these guys have been publishing online and blogging for a long time. They are not website developers who have come to content marketing and blogging later on — out of necessity, not because they personally blogged to build a name and relationships for business development.

Pick up the book, it’s short and easy read. If you’re in doubt of the merits of blogging strategically and think the book costs too much, let me know. I’ll buy you a copy.