A couple months ago, a marketing consultant to a major law firm pooh-poohed my suggestion on Facebook that he consider WordPress for the law firm’s digital publishing needs.

He called WordPress simplistic publishing software used only for blogs that’s inherently insecure and innapropriate for a major law firm.

Well, according to Nelio Software, 62 percent of the 100 fast growing companies in the United States (@inc5000) are using WordPress to power their sites. This is up more than 20 percent from just a year ago.

We’re talking well beyond do it yourself here. Whether blog, website or application we’re talking about sites developed by experienced WordPress developers versus something set up with WordPress off the shelf.

From Marie Dodson (@Mdodson12) of Torque Magazine, my source:

From ecommerce and apps to business websites, personal blogs and beyond, WordPress powers online experiences for startups and enterprise companies alike.

……

It’s quite clear that WordPress has in many ways broken free of the “just for blogging” stereotype, which can be seen by the fact that 27 percent of all websites use the CMS to power their websites.

While WordPress is still a leading choice for bloggers, it’s also become the solution of choice for brands like Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Nikon, NASA, and more.In recent years, open source has taken the internet by storm. In fact, companies like Microsoft, Google, Tesla, and even the US government have embraced open source as part of their digital practices.

Perhaps the biggest reason for WordPress’s growth is the fact that it’s open-source software. Per Dodson:

[O]pen-source foundation has positioned it at the cutting-edge when it comes to innovation. For example, when Google Glass launched in 2014, the very next day there were plugins already available, which enabled users to leverage and integrate the new technology with their sites.

Compare this to proprietary or closed solutions, where this process is often long and grueling. Open source software is more customizable, scalable and agile, which is invaluable in today’s era where businesses need to move faster to stay competitive.

Open-source software benefits from the collective knowledge and collaborative work of over a hundred thousand developers worldwide, in the case if WordPress. Proprietary software can simply not keep up with the speed of improvements being done of open-source.

Law firms often turn to proprietary software for their websites, blogs, micro-sites and other digital publishing. Doing so they could be vendor-locking themselves into often outdated/expansive software and limited and expensive future upgrades.

LexBlog moved to WordPress years ago. I am glad we did.

We’ve been able to develop a software as a service business empowered by a custom WordPress solution that provides law firms with a better, faster and cheaper product. A product on which we can push regular upgrades and feature enhancements.

This would have been impossible without open-source and WordPress.

After talking with Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, a summer ago, I walked away thinking this guy sees WordPress dominating website development in the years ahead – growing from today’s 27% market share to 90%. It’s not that crazy — and we’re all likely to benefit as a result.


Are your law firm’s blogs running on a proprietary CMS (Content Management System), or for that matter matter, any CMS other than WordPress? If so, you may want to think again.

Marie Dodson (@Mdodson12) reports for Torque that Microsoft just migrated 20,000 blogs with more than 1 million posts and 1.2 million comments off its own proprietary content management system to WordPress. Most of the blogs were running on the same proprietary ASP.NET and SQL Server based CMS.

The result?

  • Sites have experienced an uptick in speed
  • Major SEO improvements
  • Improved site navigation on desktop and mobile browsers

Brian Messenlehner (@bmess), head of WebDevStudios, which worked with Microsoft on the blog migration, told Dodson that as part of Microsoft’s push into Open Source Software, versus proprietary/closed systems, they researched the best CMS to use and decided on WordPress.

You’d think that the largest software company in the world use their own publishing technology to run all of their websites, but like a lot of other companies they wanted to save time and money by going Open Source.

The adoption of Open Source software for publishing, with WordPress leading the way, isn’t going to slow down any time soon, per Dodson.

It’s free, flexible, and easy to use, maintain, and update. It provides companies with the agility to move faster without breaking the bank.

Per Messenlehner, it makes little sense for a company to continue to publish on proprietary software.

Lots of enterprise companies still pay a lot of money with licensing fees and maintenance on outdated proprietary software. These companies could dramatically cut their costs by switching to an open-source solution like WordPress.

Law firms do continue to publish on outmoded publishing software for blogs and other content, all of which could — and probably should be published on WordPress.

In addition, website development companies and consultants are advising law firms to use an underperforming and expensive proprietary CMS. In many cases, a CMS that the website development company built and that is exclusively maintained by the company — things which increase short and long term costs and limit innovation.

Look at Microsoft. An Open Source CMS, probably WordPress, is likely the best publishing software for your law firm.

The New York Times’ Quentin Hardy (@qhardy) reports that people, especially in the 18 to 34 age group, increasingly want to see live events such as the Olympics as they happen, whether on televison or a mobile device.

Though NBC offered coverage of the RIO Olympics on its NBC Sports App, NBC delayed the broadcast of some events to show them during prime time, sacrificing immediacy in the hopes of a larger viewing audience.

Per Hardy:

…[I]n a world where seeing things in real time and commenting on them is a big value for the young, that kind of time delay may alienate the coveted crowd. NBC was unable to deliver its advertisers the kind of audiences seen during the 2012 London Olympics, and as a result, NBC had to give advertisers free airtime to make up for the shortfall.

Exactly. I would have loved to watch the Olympics, especially the track and field events. But I would no longer put up with the baloney of watching delayed coverage of events which NBC packaged on televison around ads and random interviews and on its confusing app, which packaged track events so it would have taken me an hour or two to wait for the men’s 1,500.

I don’t think I watched 30 minutes of the Olympics and came to believe that this extraordinary event would sadly become irrelevant, as far as I was concerned.

I get that I am being too demanding of NBC’s current management, but that’s just what I have come to expect after using the Internet for all I do — and consume. For people 30 and 40 years younger than me, it’s all they know. NBC is kissing them goodbye.

If NBC told me I could buy a subscription to the Olympics on an app for $50 per week (total of $100 to $150) and I saw with people sharing coverage of the events on social media how exciting things were, I probably would have bought it.

I pay a subscription to the New York Times because the stories come as written, their iPhone and iPad app is outstanding, their reporters are active on social media and the content is widely shareable on social media.

NBC’s and the IOC’s trying to go old school, even clamping down on social media sharing of coverage, reminds me of when the legal directory, Martindale-Hubbell (remember it?), didn’t want Google to index their directory because that would change Martindale’s business model.

We screwed up by pursuing scale and traffic, a senior publishing executive at a U.K newspaper told Digiday’s Jessica Davies (@jessdaviesmk).

In a story which Davies says Digiday granted anonymity in exchange for brutal honesty, the newspaper executive confessed:

The digital media industry has completely screwed up by pursuing scale for the sake of scale. There’s been a relentless pursuit for the biggest number you can get, which has partly been driven by what advertisers want, and partly driven by vanity. We have all chased unique users without really interrogating why we want those users. The way Google and social platforms in general have made us work, is that we want a new person at all points, regardless of whether that person engages with the site at all

You’re chasing numbers for the sake of numbers without getting anywhere, they continued.

Internally you fear that if your figures have dropped month-on-month, everyone will start questioning what’s going on. But actually it’s a very crude way of determining success. What really matters is do you have a decent, engaged, loyal user base and can you make money from it. When you see a site has 10 million users a day, you have no idea if 9.5 million of those have just come in and out because they’ve watched a video on Facebook — to that person, they’ve just watched a Facebook video, they’re not interacting with the brand.

I probably talk to as many lawyer and law firm publishers as anyone. Whether they are on our LexBlog Network or not, 90% of them are chasing traffic to their content.

How many unique visitors? How many subscribers? Why aren’t the numbers growing? How many services should I use to distribute content to their lists? Can I auto-feed my content to social media?

What’s the end game? Is it as if you blanket bomb every major city with your content, or at least those with the 90,000 inside counsel, someone will pick up a piece of your content off the sidewalk and say, “Wow, what intellect, I need to call these guys.”

The executive says nothing is changing in newspapers, even though no one is succeeding because “[W]e look around and see everyone else is doing it, and that validates it.” Boy does that sound familiar.

Sadly, innovation, as is also the case with law firms, is not coming from the newspapers.

Most of the innovation, new ways of looking at things, and genuine attempts to change, aren’t coming from publishers, but the big platforms. I’m struggling to think of a legacy news publisher that has done anything to set themselves apart. The biggest innovation ever made in publishing is the introduction of the paywall, which was a fly in the face of what was generally accepted regarding content on the open web. Other than that, it feels like the only approach we’ve had is, let’s get bigger, do more and get bigger. What’s your plan B? There needs to be a recalibration of what individual newspapers are about, what value they add to their own readers, and what services they can provide.

In the case of large law, which is pouring out a ton of content, there has to be a recalibration of what the firms are publishing, what their goals are and how they are going to realize their goals.

I had lunch today with Dave Bowerman, Director of Client Development at K&L Gates. We talked how the firm, then as Seattle’s Preston Gates & Ellis, built a data base of e-dsicovery cases and, led by Bowerman, faced it with an e-discovery blog to give the data-base a presence on the web.

The goal was not to get traffic to the blog, but to raise the firm’s stature in the burgeoining e-discovery arena. Bowerman wanted the influencers in e-discovery to be talking about the blog and data base. He wanted people at conferences to have heard about it so that his lawyers at the conference would be recognized for e-dciscovery.

Bowerman wanted e-discovery authorities across the country citing the blog and database when they were out speaking and in their writings.

Bowerman knew if he could create an organic buzz among the influencers, the reputation of the firm’s work in the area would grow, his lawyers would have the opportunity to build relationships with clients, prospective clients and referrals on e-dicovery work, and revenue would grow.

Sure, as word of mouth spread, traffic grew to the blog and database, but traffic was never the goal. Scaling the blog up was never the strategy nor driving force.

Look at Cooley Go, an online resource for startups across the country. The focus being how can we give as much value away for free – news, insight, information, tools, and forms – to entrepreneurs, startups, VC’s angel investors, bankers, and employees.

I doubt a Cooley lawyer can even walk into into tech startup conference or networking event today without people coming up and saying “Hey, that Cooley Go, is pretty cool. Well done.”

I can’t tell you how many times the subject of Cooley Go has come up at conferences, events or meetings I’ve attended. I can’t imagine how many times the site is being shown in university class rooms, start up events and technology conferences.

Imagine what this is doing for Cooley. A lawyer there would have to be a darn fool not to be able to drive a truck through the relationship and business development window that Cooley Go has opened.

What’s the point? When publishing, you don’t have to follow all the other law firms off the traffic cliff.

Focus on engagement of your audience, beginning with the influencers. Have as an end goal being the go-to lawyer or law firm in an area and as a result bringing in markedly greater revenue.

If you want to look at web stats, that’s fine, everyone days. I looked at mine last summer. But I wouldn’t look at traffic and scaling up as measures of success.

As the newspaper exec would say, that’s screwing up.

Image courtesy of Flickr by DJ Mitchel

In an ABA Benchmark Study on Law Firm Website Costs, Legal marketer, Conrad Saam reports that “WordPress has become the de facto website platform for most commercial websites.”

Saam’s right. WordPress for so many reasons has become of the software of record for publishing. Whether it’s a law firm website, a blog, or good portions of the New York Times, WordPress is the right fit. Commentary that WordPress is only for blogs and is inherently insecure come from the unknowing.

But I don’t agree with Saam in his comment that those software and development companies charging law firms ongoing subscription fees for WordPress sites are reaping pure profit after they’ve recouped their initial costs. At least not in the case of the good companies.

Any law firm using WordPress for publishing, whether for a website, blog, micro-site, magazine, or whatever, needs to be paying for upgrades and feature enhancements. Ideally they’d be working with a company doing research and development so that the law firm is receiving never ending improvements to their publishing platform.

Think about it this way, says Mike Duncan, CEO of the marketing agency, Sage Island, in a story in Wilmington Business Insights:

You buy an awesome new car, one with a killer paint job, leather seats and a state-of-the-art sound system. That car is your baby and because you want it to last a long time, you take care of it with regular oil changes, repairs and weekends spent waxing it until it shines. Well, your website is the same way. No matter how good it looks, there’s a back end, much like the engine of a car, that needs to be serviced regularly. If you fail to take care of your website, you’ll quickly run it into the ground.

You need to on the latest version of WordPress for any number of reasons, per Duncan.

  • Security. WordPress is immensely popular, which makes it a target for hackers and data thieves. By updating to the latest version, you’re able to reconcile known security vulnerabilities. If you ignore the updates, you’re putting your website – and your business – at risk.
  • New Features. Each WordPress release comes with new features and improvements. Taking advantage of these features is an easy way to improve the users’ experience and keep your site looking and feeling modern and relevant. It sends the right message to your clients, and shows them that you care enough to offer them the best experience possible.
  • Speed. Faster is better, especially online. Each WordPress update improves the speed of your website, which is a huge factor in SEO. If you don’t update WordPress, it could take minutes for a simple page to load, and today’s online user doesn’t have the patience to wait that long, nor should they.
  • Bug Fixes. Nobody’s perfect, not even WordPress. The platform is, however, constantly improving. In fact, any issues you experience on your website can usually be solved by updating WordPress, as each new release fixes bugs that managed to slip in. If you don’t update your site, these fixes won’t be available.

Beyond these reasons, you have feature enhancements that ought to be regularly added. There are constant and never ending improvements that can and should be made to a publishing platform that go beyond core WordPress upgrades.

There are unique publishing, education and support features sought by law firms. This requires ongoing research, development, testing and regular upgrades to those features.

A law firm would never use software that is not regularly updated. Unfortunately, law firms often only look for upgrades to websites and blogs when they are looking for an updated design.

But design is only the surface. Launching a nice looking design on an outdated version of WordPress with outdated plugins, which version and plugins are only getting more outdated over time is fraught with peril and something that can easily be avoided.

Moving from an agency model to a publishing software business model has enabled us to focus on our underlying publishing platform built on WordPress. Like other SaaS providers, it’s enabled us to provide law firms and other professional services firms with a publishing platform that’s better, faster and cheaper.

So, yes, do pay for regular upgrades and feature enhancements. But me smart in the way you do so. It need not cost a lot and probably ought to be paid on a monthly or annual subscription.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Cristian Labarca 

 

Many marketing, web development, and SEO companies — and even some law firms — look at legal blogs as merely a means for generating high search engine rankings and web traffic. 

But long before these folks discovered blogs, legal bloggers viewed what they did as journalism. In some cases investigative journalism. In others, legal commentary and analyis that would not otherwise be available. 

So I hope a few legal bloggers joined in when newsrooms across the country erupted in applause Sunday night when “Spotlight,” the film based on the Boston Globe’s Pulitizer-Prize winning expose of the Catholic Church’s cover-up of priest abuse, won the Academy Award for best picture. 

News reporting is not the glamorous profession it once was. Reporters are being laid off. Budget cuts prevent investigative journalism. Some newspapers are being shut down all together.

But as Timothy Pratt (@timothyjpratt) reported for the New York Times, Monday brought a bounce to the newsroom’s step.  

“Everybody’s walking a little bit taller” in the newsroom, Brian McGrory, the [Boston Globe’s] editor, said in a phone interview, describing the mood as “universally great.’’ “It’s a much-welcomed boost.”

……

[Walter] Robinson, who led The Globe’s investigative team, said in a phone interview that the award was a “needed shot in the arm for journalism,” and a reminder to the public on “good reporting and the difference it can make in people’s lives — particularly the lives of people who have no one else to speak for them but us.”

I am not suggesting that blogging lawyers are facing the same challenges as journalists, though many may see parallels in the decline of jobs, but blogging lawyers are often looked at as advertisers.

And who can blame folks. We have lawyers buying blog content to mislead people about the lawyer’s knowledge and expertise. We have others packing blogs with keywords and key phrases in shallow attempts to achieve high Google rankings. We have law firms buying distribution of content that is not seen as otherwise valuable.

Rather than publish independent publications covering a niche, we have law firms placing content inside a website under a heading called a blog. Rather than journalism, such firms chase web traffic and content laden bio and practice group pages.

Despite all this craziness, there are thousands of lawyers across this country publishing excellent law blogs. Journalism at the finest via the likes of the China Law Blog, Food Safety News, Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Gay & Lesbian Family in Texas, Florida Probate and Trust Litigation Blog and Michigan Law Advisor.

Is there any other publication covering state attorney generals than the State AG Monitor? Is there any other publkication that has the eye of the FCC in the way that CommLaw Blog does? And is there any other publication holding cruise lines accountable around the world like Cruise Law News does?

The list goes on and on in the case of lawyers driven by passion and expertise producing quality journalism. Journalism and reporting that was never before possible and if covered before is no longer being covered because of newsroom declines.

I get goosebumps skimming through the publications on the LexBlog Network. Sure, there a few stinkers, but there are thousands of lawyers in our network and elsewhere who ought to take pride in their journalism work.

I was first told about ‘Spotlight’ by my friend and attorney, Bob Ambrogi (@bobambrogi). Bob, in addition to practing law is a publisher in his own right being the only person to serve as editor of the National Law Journal and Lawyers Weekly — and now publishing the leading legal technology publication, LawSites, in the form of a blog.

So many areas of the law and locations yet to be covered though. The list of publishing opportunities for good lawyers is endless. With publishing and social distribution only becoming easier along with talented lawyers wanting to make a difference, legal journalism is on the rise — and from a source that could never have been expected a decade ago, the everyday American lawyer.

On the heals of Facebook’s announcing the launch of Instant Articles, AdAge has learned that Google intends to launch it’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on February 24.

AMP is an open source initiative which aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web. Google wants webpages with rich content such as video, animations and graphics to load instantaneously. Google also wants the same code to work across multiple platforms and devices so that content can appear everywhere in an instant—no matter what type of phone, tablet or mobile device someone is using.

The platform will be built on existing web technologies and allow websites to present light-weight webpages.

To get a feel of what the faster web may look like, check out this demo from Google.

Why AMP? From Google:

Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we access information, and today people consume a tremendous amount of news on their phones. Publishers around the world use the mobile web to reach these readers, but the experience can often leave a lot to be desired. Every time a webpage takes too long to load, they lose a reader—and the opportunity to earn revenue through advertising or subscriptions. That’s because advertisers on these websites have a hard time getting consumers to pay attention to their ads when the pages load so slowly that people abandon them entirely.

From AdAge:

AMP is a direct response to similar but proprietary platforms like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple’s News. Unlike them, however, AMP is open source, meaning anyone can use it.

Google says AMP pages load 85% faster than standard mobile web pages. The company wants to reinvent the mobile web by delivering content at near instant speeds.

Publishers, meanwhile, have been eagerly awaiting their chance to test AMP’s efficacy in encouraging readership on mobile devices. The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed and the Washington Post are among those who will have AMP sites ready next week.

What does AMP mean for lawyers, law firms and other professional services who are publishing and blogging? Not something to get all freaked out about.

Most professionals have a lot to work on with their existing technology. A significant amount of firms are not even using responsive design which enables a pleasant mobile reading experience. Others have poor hosting and technology resulting in slow load time. Some firms bury their publishing in graphic laden websites, as opposed to publishing for the net on independent sites.

Others have marginal content. The vast majority are also challenged when it comes to social media for personalized distribution.

Google and marketing companies like AMP because of the speed at which video, animations and graphics can load. Publishing by professional services firms is not ad driven, it’s reputation and relationships driven. Firms and their professionals can do a lot with what they have before worrying about AMP.

AMP may well become the way of the world. WordPress plugins have been developed and are probably being used by the 30 publishers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, who have been using AMP since last year.

At this point, just know that mobile publishing rules and that AMP exists. We’ll follow developments at LexBlog and share developments and our thinking as things progress.

Image courtesy of Flickr by David Wise

Facebook announced Wednesday afternoon that its Instant Articles feature will be made available to all publishers come Aptil 12. Publishers include law firms and other professional services firms publishing interesting news, insight and commentary.

Until now, Instant Articles was limited to select publishers such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, BBC News, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic and NBC.

Instant Articles enables a publisher or news organization to select articles they want to publish directly to Facebook, as opposed to merely sharing a link on Facebook to an article on their own site. Facebook users then view the entire article with the Facebook app with formatting similar to the publisher’s site.

Facebook Instant Articles

Instant Articles was ostensibly built to solve the problem of slow loading times which created problems for people reading news on their phones. No question articles running on the feature load at lightening speed, about 10 times faster than standard mobile Web posts. It’s an eloquent experience with articles instantly slid off to the side when done reading.

I say ostensibly as major publishers looked at Instant Articles as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Major publishers, who get their revenue from advertising on their sites saw publishing on Facebook as giving up that revenue. Facebook and the advertisers ultimately worked out a split of the Facebook ad revenue as well as an agreement allowing publishers to embed ads in their content published on Facebook.

Facebook Product manager Josh Roberts said in a blog post:

Media organizations and journalists are an integral part of Facebook, and we’re committed to delivering products that will create the best experience for publishers and their readers. With Instant Articles, publishers have full control over the look of their stories, as well as data and ads. They have the ability to bring their own direct-sold ads and keep 100 percent of the revenue, and track data on the ads served through their existing ad-measurement systems, or they can monetize their content through the Facebook Audience Network. Additionally, publishers can use their existing Web-based analytics systems to track article traffic or use third-party providers. They can do all this while accessing a rich suite of multimedia tools to create dynamic, interactive stories that will load quickly everywhere on Facebook, regardless of where in the world their readers are.

Roberts also detailed how publishers can get started with Instant Articles after April 12.

We’ve made it easy for publishers to join by building a system based on the tools they already use. Instant Articles uses the languages of the Web and works with publishers’ content-management systems, and we have documented an open standard that is easy for publishers to adopt. We encourage all interested publishers to review our documentation and prepare for open availability in April, at which point they will be able to share this fast, interactive experience with their readers.

What’s this mean for blogging lawyers and other professionals? Facebook will not operate as a wasteland for content of marginal value. Algorithms will see that such content never sees the light of day.

Little question professionals who measure publishing succcess in traffic numbers versus reputation and relationship building will look to automatically push their content into Instant Articles. It’ll be a waste of time and may even impact them negatively so that anything they say or publish on Facebook is punished.

As Casey Newton (@caseynewton) of The Verge reports, publishers will not flick a switch to get their content on Instant Articles.

Independent blogs and newspapers are still unlikely to create Instant Article feeds of their own. While Facebook says they have worked to simplify the process, creating what amounts to a custom RSS feed with unique HTML-like elements still requires a level of technical expertise that many publishers still lack. More interesting would be if publishing platforms like WordPress, Medium, or Tumblr enable the automatic posting of Instant Articles to Facebook. Until then, publishers interested in developing for the format can start reading up on how they’re created.

We’ve been discussing internally at LexBlog publishing the best of our network’s posts on Facebook. We’ve done so on a limited basis to date, but have recently discussed expanding our Facebook postings so as to be ready for the day Instant Articles was opened to everyone. We’d do it to get quality legal insight and commentary out to the public as well to shine a light on our network’s best posts and bloggers.

LexBlog Network publishing on Facebook Instant Articles will likely happen. The logistics from a technical aspect will need to be nailed down to provide for the presentation of the elements Facebook allows in its interface. We’ll want our publishers’ posts to be displayed as eloquently as content from the New York Times or Harvard Business Review.

With 9,000 bloggers we also need to do things in a way that scales, can be upgraded, provides high performance and that’s secure. A curation aspect may be desirable. Not even major publishers are auto-feeding all of their articles onto Instant Articles.

In regard to individual blogs publishing to Instant Articles, we’ll start discussions on technology and how such a feature could be included in our three offerings.

Opening Facebook Instant Artcles to all publishers is good news. For publishers and their software providers, such as LexBlog, the devil will be in the details. Racing to “push” content onto Facebook will not be the answer.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jereme Rauckman

A lack of innovation, high operating expenses and complacency have resulted in less than cutting edge technology and efficiencies from the big boys in legal technology and publishing. The problem has been made worse because of law firms’ acceptance of the status quo as they don’t know better and bill by the hour.

The result is an explosion (relatively speaking) of legal startups over the last six or seven years. Some good ideas, some with new technology/software, some making money, others not, some third party funded, some bootstrapped, some well run and others not.

Lawyer and veteran legal blogger, Carolyn Elefant (@CarolynElefant) asked a darn good question over the weekend, “Can these legal startups survive an economic downturn?”

TechCrunch contributer Bastiann Janmaat (@BastiannJanmaat) pondered this question: Are startups selling to startups building a house of cards? Bastian observes:

“B2B companies whose customers are other early stage B2B companies put themselves doubly at risk: Not only are startups failure-prone by nature, but an early stage company with strong fundamentals can still falter if its client base is vulnerable to market corrections.”

Bastiann goes on to describe that startup-centric companies most likely to weather a recession offer services that provide meaningful cost savings and are sticky – meaning that they’re so ingrained in the company’s infrastructure that they’re as painful to remove as a sticky band-aid. Bastiann offers some examples of companies that meet this 21st century version of Darwinnian survival of the fittest test — Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud-based provider that is both cheaper than a company owning its own servers and to much of a hassle to change or Gusto and Zenefits, payroll and HR platforms that are integrated in many startups’ operations and therefore harder to eliminate.

Both Elefant and Janmatt reference UpCounsel, an online marketplace to find lawyers, as being at risk bevause of the possibility of being circumvented by other services.

Getting sticky sounds like getting to the point where you are part of the “plumbing  of the Internet.” Up or down economy, there’s always something flowing through the net – people need your pipes. While most dot-com companies failed 15 years ago, Cisco stood strong.

Take my company, LexBlog, as an example. We’ve long been viewed as an agency providing custom design and development with deep expertise in blogs and social media. Rightfully so, we positioned ourselves as this.

But over the last year we’ve made a heavy investment in software by building a new publishing platform with WordPress as its core. Rather than our designers and developers developing custom sites over two or three days, we can provide custom user interfaces in two or three hours on publishing software that receives regular upgrades and feature enhancements. Better user experience at much lower cost.

This pivot puts LexBlog into the “plumbing category.” Whether a law firm, public relations agency, marketing company, website developer, media player or publishing company, you need software on which to publish, whether for yourself or for your clients and customers. Publishing and its software are not going away. We’re getting closer to the plumbing.

I’d add to Elefant’s and Janmatt’s comments that those companies operating at profit are much more apt to survive an economic downturn. A large initial investment from a financial partner or not, measuring success with traffic and users proved fatal to Internet companies the last time we had heavy venture capital investment followed by a declining economy.

Startup entrepreneurs and their investors are not the only losers in such a downturn. Lawyers and law firms who start using a product billed as successful because of money raised and traffic/user numbers (often inflated) take a hit. Incorporating what turns out to be a failed service or product into one’s practice management, marketing or professional development efforts can prove to be a waste. A firm’s clients can even be effected.

Don’t get me wrong innovation in legal technology is a good thing. Human and capital resources flowing into the area is driving real innovation benefiting lawyers and the people we serve. But as history has shown us, not all of the legal startups will survive.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Peter Abrahamsen 

Video is getting to be a hot topic for law firms and other professional services firms. If the survey of publishers and media companies by Nieman Labs, a Harvard journalism institute, is a any guide, the topic of video is going to get a lot hotter in 2016.

As reported by Joseph Lichterman (@ylichterman), 79 percent of respondents said their companies plan to invest more in online video this year.

Use of online video

Facebook-dependent publishers are also turning to video as a way to combat the dramatic slide in referral traffic they’ve seen the last year.

Digiday’s Ricardo Bilton (@rbilton) reports that with Facebook’s algorithms giving great weight to video, publishers have no choice.

Elite Daily [online news platform for hot issues and trending topics] is pouring resources into video, which unlike viral text content is continuing to grow sharply on Facebook.

In the past year, the site has expanded its video team from seven to 35, producing two pieces a day on average. Elite Daily’s videos got 153 million views on Facebook last year, and 18.9 million in December alone, said TubularLabs.

Elite Daily’s video output is a grab bag of shorter viral stories and longer, more in-depth features.

Elite Daily is not alone.

BuzzFeed is also chasing the Facebook video carrot. The company is reportedly reshuffling its editorial teams, consolidating some divisions and laying off staff. The goal: to shift the focus away from text to video, where the company has put the bulk of its investment over the past few years.

Media executives, especially those running print publications, acknowledge they have challenges with video, Lichterman reports.

Video is a difficult area for former print groups,” one respondent told Newman. “None of us is doing it well, we do not have in-house expertise (generally) and it is vastly expensive. We will proceed with caution in this area.”

Executives are between a rock and hard place though when it comes to video. Second on the list as a strategic priority for 2016 is “deepening online engagement.” Better video is one way publishers are trying to get users engaged.

Sounds an awful like law firms. The law firms using online video in an engaging fashion are few and far between—heck, you could probably count them on two hands.

Furthermore the firms I have talked to have invested, or are going to invest, a lot of money in video. Money that’s generating little return in online engagement.

But with the amount of money law firms and other professional services firms are investing in media—publishing and content marketing—user engagement, not just traffic, will be key. Are you resonating with your audience as an innovative and trusted authority in the niches you are looking to grow?

For this reason, video is going to be important for firms. The key will be using video wisely.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jeff Sharp</a