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.

I’m enjoying the addition of ALM’s (American Legal Media) publications in the feeds in my news aggregator, Feedly.

Through a subscription I just bought to ALM’s Law.com I receive feeds from the entire ALM network of 15 national and regional news publications, as well as commentary from leading voices in the legal field. I bought a subscription to Law.com for about $350/year, the rate given to small law firms. LexBlog, though not a law firm, qualified.

While most of the stories are about legal issues, law firms and the business of law, there are quite a few stories of interest to me and my followers on Twitter.

Stories on digital publishing, technology, business development, social media and the like. When I say quite a few, it’s probably about 5%, but that’s a higher percentage than my other feeds from sources and subjects I monitor in my aggregator. In addition, there are stories regarding law firms, companies and people of which I am interested.

The ALM is not one central feed through the law.com url, but comes via subscribing to each of the ALM legal publications. I went through the list of ALM’s featured legal publications and added them one at a time to Feedly (see above picture).

As many of you know, I share on Twitter a fair number of stories written by others – reporters, bloggers and columnists. I read stories in my aggregator for learning and staying abreast of news and developments, just as you’d read newspapers, periodicals and blogs.

From a business development standpoint for LexBlog and I, I meet and build relationships with the people (virtually to start with) whose stories, columns and blog posts I share. Who wouldn’t be curious who it is that’s sharing their story on Twitter?

They found out their story is being shared by me because I include their Twitter handle in my tweet. I also meet the people and companies who are the subject of the stories I share as I’ll include their Twitter handles.

In addition to potentially building relationships with reporters, bloggers, business people and companies, I serve as an “intelligence agent” for my followers on Twitter. I am combing the news in my aggregator on certain subjects and sharing the stories and blog posts with my followers. Not only does this build a name for me as being on top of my game on these subjects, but people come to rely on me as a source of helpful news and information.

ALM’s news feed is a good fit for me because of it’s legal bent, the reporters and subjects of the stories who I can meet, the quality of the journalism and my sharing of news and columns which folks would not otherwise see behind a paywall. I pay for my subscription to get the feeds, but non-subscribers can read the stories when shared by a subscriber on Twitter and other social media.

Sharing others’ content on Twitter seems to have built a lot of good will for me over the years. The more I share like this, the more people who follow me on Twitter, the more people like their stories shared by me and the more people share my blog posts. ALM’s feeds can only help.

Thanks much to ALM’s Shawn Harlan in business development and their chief sales officer, Allen Milloy, who helped me get the subscription.

Media Life’s Toni Fitzgerald writes that it’s time to say goodbye to paywalls in the newspaper business.

Though 73% of papers have digital paywalls in an effort to capture revenue lost by declining subscriptions and ad sales, it’s becoming clear that paywalls will not be enough.

A recent Hubspot study found that “as free content continues to proliferate on the web, many publishers are finding it harder and harder to charge for their publications.” The study, per Fitzgerald, found 20 percent of publishers believe fewer publications will charge for content in the coming six months.

The Toronto Star and the Sun in the UK are among the major publishers who have already taken down their paywalls.

Gordon Borrell, chief executive officer at Borrell Associates, an ad tracking firm in Williamsburg, Virginia told Fitzgerald that the print business model, where you get 25 percent of your revenue from subscriptions and 75 percent from advertising, doesn’t work online. You need huge audiences to generate sufficient ad revenue, and paywalls work against that.

What can we expect in the the legal arena? Historically we’ve had one major player, that being ALM.

ALM publishes among other publications The American Lawyer, the New York Law Journal, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal, The Legal Intelligencer, Legal Times, and Law Technology News. When I access most ALM publications in my news aggregator I am met with a paywall that tells me I have reached my “article limit.”

Neither Above The Law nor newcomer, Bloomberg Big Law have a paywall. Of course both of these publications only exist online. They need not cover for historical susbcription and ad revenue.

Nevertheless, Above The Law’s traffic is likely greater than ALM’s Law.com traffic. The contributor network from guests publishing pieces to Bloomberg and Above The Law appears to be greater than contributions to ALM’s online publications.

Eduardo Leite, Global Chairman of Baker & McKenzie, recently penned a piece for Bloomberg Law on the importance of social media. Would he have done the same for ALM where the piece would be behind a paywall with lower readership and no social sharing?

ALM’s contributor network, widely discussed a year plus ago, does not seem to be very popular among guest authors. I find contributing to Above The Law, something I do weekly, much more attractive. My posts are widely seen and shared.

I am now looking to carve out time to publish to Bloomberg. If I had the time, I’d contribute to Forbes and the Huffington Post. All without paywalls.

My guess is other authorities in the law feel the same – they want their content freely available so that they may share it, have others share it and link to it and have it found on a Google search, none of which is possible with content behind a paywall.

With an insatiable demand for high quality, often niche  focused content, publishers need content from contributing authorities. Unlikely to happen with paywalls.

I hear good things about Law360 from lawyers and in-house counsel. Through my own neglect, I’ll confess I do not know if Law360 publishes all original content through their own reporters and editors or whether they take content from contributing legal authorities.

No question publishers such as ALM and Law360 provide value reporting on both the law and developments in our industry. Even funneling information alone in order to provide a clear signal on niches is of value.

Social media increasingly moves content across the net. Difficult or possible with paywalls. I cannot share content on social networks or cite content on my blog, something I do liberally, when it’s behind an ALM or Law360 paywall.

ALM is a legacy publisher with excellent publications. Law360 is an upstart that has proven itself of value.

But I question how long they can run their publications behind paywalls. The law is a laggard when it comes to change, but I agree with Borelle, “In five years we’ll have vague memories of what a paywall was.”

Legal publishers may need to take down their paywalls to obtain needed contributions from authorities and the traffic which social media garners.

Iamage courtesy of Flickr by Mike Kniec

After 16 years, veteran journalist, Aric Press (@aricpress), is leaving ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media).

Press served as the Editor in Chief of The American Lawyer and later, Senior Vice President, Editor in Chief of ALM.

Yesterday, in a wonderful piece entitled, Big Law and Me (reg req’ed), Press reflected on the past 16 years and shared a dozen principles he learned.

Two grabbed my attention.

Pro bono isn’t charity. I cringed recently when I heard a longtime public interest lawyer refer to pro bono work as what big-firm lawyers doso they’ll have something to put on their tombstones. I’m not that cynical. I think it’s work that lawyers do because they belong to a profession, and professions have obligations to the broader society in which they operate. Otherwise they don’t deserve the privilege of self-regulation and the honor of a special status in our courts. Part of the price for that status is serving those who can’t afford legal services. It’s a duty, in my view, but also an act of self-protection. With outside investment money beginning to slosh around the legal world, the question of bar regulation will be visited again in your futures. If you want to maintain the current framework, you have to pay the dues. It’s a profession, if you choose to keep it one.

And:

What a great time to be a lawyer! The rule of law spreads, chasing commerce and capital around the globe. Inventors bring new technologies and industries to the fore, ones requiring the protection and guidance that only lawyers can provide. Human rights become more than a slogan in previously unmapped jurisdictions; only lawyers can keep them meaningful. There’s a world of need and challenge out there, and lawyers have powerful and crucial roles to play if they choose to. And I hope you will.

This message couldn’t be a more optimistic one for young lawyers, law students and those thinking of the law as a career.

I understand jobs are not as easy to come by as they once were. It will require innovation and business development skills, also observations of Press. But the law remains a profession of service to our society where lawyers have crucial roles to play.

I may draw a few arrows, but what a great time to be a lawyer.

PS – Read Aric Press whole article. It’ll be one of the better ones you’ll read this year as a lawyer.

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I am headed to LegalTech in New York City for the week.

I’ll be at LegalTech at the Hilton tomorrow (Tuesday) through Thursday and at ReInvent Law on Friday.

I will be meeting a number of people attending the show as well as number of folks whose offices are in New York City. I’ll also be attending a number of the social events, though with the Seahawks win last night and the snow in New York delaying flights, I missed the ALM party this evening.

If you’re going to be at LegalTech or work in New York and would like to get together, please let me know. My email is kevin@lexblog.com and my cell is 206 321 3627 for calling or texting.

I’ve been coming to LegalTech for almost ten years. The show can be a bit overwhelming with all the tech solutions and tech companies. But like any conference or show, it’s about the people. Good people.

ALM, our host and which runs the show, has some great people. They’ve been working on some real innovative things on the digital media side which they’re beginning to launch.

Though you may not be buying from all the companies present, many of the companies are led by innovators and the true entrepreneurs in the legal industry. Getting to know them can be a lot of fun – as well as inspiring.

LexBlog’s LXBN will be covering LegalTech on multiple fronts – reporters doing stories, curating Tweets courtesy of Rebel Mouse, a Storify page, and LXBN TV Interviews. You can see the coverage in the LegalTech section of LXBN.

See you there.

alm-logoALM, known as a leading provider of news and business information to the legal and real estate industries, announced last week the formation of a Marketing Services team that will work with law firm clients to plan, execute and measure a comprehensive marketing campaign.

The objective of the new team is to deliver greater return on investment for clients by offering a full suite of marketing services from a single source, reducing the need to engage with multiple vendors to acquire new leads and build customer relationships. The team will meet with clients to assess their overall marketing goals, then customize a package of services – including market research, national and regional advertising, live events, Webcasts, email marketing, advertorials, and other ALM offerings – in order to build a turnkey marketing campaign, and finally to provide lead management and measure campaign results.

Kevin Vermeulen, senior vice president at ALM, on why.

Our clients in the legal services industry are moving away from ad hoc marketing investments and moving toward sustainable relationship marketing strategies that will help them better achieve their overall business goals. The ability to deliver end-to-end marketing campaigns that are created with clients across all stages of the marketing process – from planning to execution to post-campaign follow-up – is the future of our industry.

The ALM Marketing Services team will incorporate customized solutions in a four-step consultative approach, per Vermeulen.

  • Content Services
  • Program Execution
  • Lead Management

I agree with Vermeulen that law firms are moving towards relationship marketing and away from ad hoc marketing, that may include advertising in print or online. To the extent that ALM can leverage its experience in publishing and event management to help law firms build and nurture relationships, not just with clients, but with influencers and amplifiers, ALM’s service will be of real value to law firms.

The key when it comes to content services will be to empower law firms to use content in ways in which the law firms are sharing their own lawyers’ insight and commentary, not just distributing the content.

I’m happy to share word that LexBlog will be providing media coverage of LegalTech New York 2012 from January 30 through February 1.

LegalTech, the leading technology conference each year, brings some tremendous talent to New York. Whether they be speakers, sponsors, bloggers, exhibitors, or attendees, I’ve always found there to be a wonderful exchange of ideas surrounding innovation in the law.

The ideas, enthusiasm, and collaboration only exist for a few days though and only for the people attending. By covering the conference LexBlog will expand LegalTech’s reach – both in the people we’re reaching and the time in which ideas and discussion emanating from LegalTech can continue.

With this partnership between ALM’s LegalTech and LexBlog, LegalTech will have a presence beyond the walls of the conference center through video interviews of presenters, exhibitors, attendees and sponsors.

LexBlog’s editorial team will be conducting the interviews and be running the videos on a featured channel on LXBN (The LexBlog Network). The videos will also be hosted at YouTube so they may be shared via social media, blogged about, and displayed by exhibitors and speakers on their own blogs and websites.

In addition, LexBlog will be curating independent conference coverage from bloggers and those tweeting from the conference.

If you’re a blogger looking to cover LegalTech, LegalTech has graciously offered to provide press credentials to bloggers so they can get in free of charge. Drop Alexis Burgess, Marketing Manager at ALM, an email or give her a call at 212-457-7905 to request a press pass. Let Colin O’Keefe, LexBlog’s Editorial Manager, know you’re blogging from LegalTech so you’re coverage may be curated into LXBN’s coverage.

Thanks to Colin O’Keefe and Kevin McKeown, LexBlog’s President, for working with Henry Dicker, ALM’s Vice President Events, and Alexis Burgess to put this partnership together.

You can look for advance coverage of LegalTech on LXBN and this blog come January.

Bill Pollak, the CEO of American Lawyer Media (ALM), the leading provider of current legal news through national and regional publications, has an interesting piece this week in BtoB Media Business on why media leaders need to enter the social media waters.

Pollak explains he’s not blogging, Tweeting, and using Facebook because he has nothing do. He often finds “social media to be tedious and frustrating.” Pollak actively participates in social media because he’s “convinced that these tools will be the future of b-to-b media.”

Following Bill as a media company leader, one thing I’ve learned is that you lead by example. And it’s no different with social media per Bill.

…[I]f people like me don’t roll up our sleeves and begin to learn firsthand about the opportunities and challenges inherent in social media, our team members won’t feel like they should experiment and begin using them.

Pollak offers media company executives who are sitting on the social media sidelines four thoughts to get started. The same thoughts apply to leaders throughout our legal profession, whether a managing partner, CMO, or bar association executive.

  • Listen: Whether the market you serve revolves around torts or textiles, right now people are talking about your industry. Maybe in the old days (i.e., six years ago), those conversations would have occurred in the pages of your magazine or at your market-leading conference. Not anymore. Now those discussions occur 24/7/365 among bloggers you’ve never heard of and on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You should be listening to those discussions for new ideas, stories that your organization should be covering and for emerging experts who could become speakers at your events or guest contributors in your publications. Just because the writing isn’t as polished as you would expect from your reporters and the thoughts sometimes come at you in 140 character bites, it doesn’t mean those who blog or tweet don’t have something important to teach you. Listen and learn from them.
  • Monitor: Sorry to tell you this, but some of those discussions are about you–or about your company, your products and your services. You should be particularly attentive to those nuggets. If the buzz is positive, great. But when people post negative comments about your business, you have a chance to fix the problem quickly, or at least correct the record before those negatives get picked up by others and ricochet around the blogosphere. And I wouldn’t dream of attending one of my company’s trade shows or conferences without live-monitoring what people are posting on Twitter about it (and they will be posting). Not exactly scientific research, I know, but certainly helpful.
  • Connect: Building a brand or protecting an established one is all about building trust and a relationship with customers. In the b-to-b media industry, those relationships increasingly include readers who want to be heard and to establish a dialogue with our team members, particularly our reporters and editors. Readers want to build deeper connections with our staff–to know more about them, perhaps, but also to find out ‘the story behind the story.’ I want to listen in on that discussion as much as I can, both to hear what kinds of questions customers are asking and to see how our journalists respond. The sum total of those discussions will be more important in establishing what the brand means to our customers than all the promotional ads and press releases we put out.
  • Build community: The power in our brands traditionally came from the strength of the connection between our products and our audience. In the future, brand power will increasingly be derived from how well we help members of our audience connect with one another. We can use social media tools to do that, leveraging the power of LinkedIn, for instance, to help community members find clients, experts, jobs or whatever else they value. Those same tools will allow us to extend a three-day trade show into a yearlong dialogue, with our brands positioned as the host for those conversations. As executives, we should be looking for community-building successes and encouraging our teams to experiment with our own offerings.

Sure, if you’re not in the media field you can blow these thoughts off as Pollak is directing them to media executives. But, as a leader in our legal profession if you can’t extrapolate how listening, monitoring, connecting, and community building apply to your law firm or association, you’re in trouble. And if you think social media is a fad allowing you to stick your head in the sand till the storm passes, you’re in more trouble. As Pollak says, “Social media is here to stay.”

If you’re a leader in our legal professional looking for leaders to follow on social media, you could do a lot worse than following Bill Pollak. You can follow him via his blog and his Twitter feed.

ALM American Lawyer MediaThat’s the question being asked today by some very well read publications covering journalism and the media.

From Gawker:

Earlier this month, American Lawyer Media laid off 42 staffers across the board. The company is also “scaling back” plans to expand the scope of one magazine, and moving another to an all-digital format, according to an internal memo. One insider says all of the laid off people are gone, but a sense of nervousness still pervades the office.

And from Folio:

Ever since British acquisition firm Incisive Media purchased U.S.-based ALM last July for $630, it seemed that the Apax Partners subsidiary was on the fast track, quickly evolving from an entrepreneurial startup to b-to-b powerhouse.

Now, it seems there is some apprehension from inside-mostly about revenues. Is the legal market not as recession-proof as once thought?

Earlier this month, ALM slashed 47 jobs across the board. The company apparently is scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media’s Florida publication into a monthly magazine and is shifting Law Firm, Inc. from a print to online only.

Both Gawker and Folio reference CEO Bill Pollak’s internal memo:

Folks,

Several weeks ago, I wrote to you about our business results for the first quarter of 2008 and shared some of the challenges we face as a result of the credit squeeze and other market factors. I also described our intention to tighten our belts and reduce costs. With no change in sight on the economic horizon, the senior management team and I have spent the past few weeks examining our business options. Our goal was to find solutions that would lower expenses without compromising quality, and which would allow us to continue to invest in and meet our long term business goals. In particular, we all strongly agree on the need to continue investing in our Web infrastructure, while expanding ALM’s ability to generate and publish content online.

We looked at each business with these questions in mind: Are we getting the right return on our investment? Do we need to keep doing this work? Can we do this work another way? We believe that while we are primarily doing the right work in the right way, there are changes we need to make immediately to respond to economic conditions.

Some of these changes involve revising the timing or scope of planned initiatives. Others, however, are staff related and go beyond simply delaying the filling of open jobs. In total, we have decided to eliminate forty-two current positions across ALM and Incisive’s US operations. These staff reductions are distributed across businesses, locations and job levels and all the employees involved have already been notified.

The business changes we will be making are also broad in scope. These include scaling back plans to grow Real Estate Media’s Florida publication into a monthly magazine; closing down the Operations Department of Incisive’s Norwalk, CT. office; and shifting Law Firm, Inc. from a print magazine to a digital product.

Another change in business strategy – and the one that will have the greatest impact on staff – is our decision to restructure ALM’s Event Division and reassign management responsibility for many of our existing SRI conferences to Insight in Canada, Incisive’s Events group in London and ALM’s Legal Publishing Division. A number of SRI’s financial events will be eliminated.

Accepting and working through change is never easy, and changes that affect our colleagues and friends can be particularly painful. We did not make these decisions lightly. But we know that our future success depends on our ability to align ourselves with our markets and clients, and to ensure we have the resources we need to develop and grow our brands. The changes announced today will not only help us during the current economic turbulence, but will make us stronger in the future.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note at

[Redacted].

Bill

ALM has some talented and passionate reporters, editors, and management folks – one of whom is Pollak. But as with the journalism industry in general placing greater weight on online media, there are going to be changes.

Added to that is Incisive Media’s footprint. Incisive is a fast growing digital information provider doing some innovative things. With innovation will come change.

Expect ALM to be a force in legal publishing at the end of the day. But with digital gaining on print, things will just be much different.

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s LexBlog Q & A with Mario Sundar of LinkedIn (which focused less on the law and more on social networking), we’re shifting gears back to the legal realm. And who better to bring us back in style than Bill Pollak of ALM?

Bill, who has been with the company since it’s formation and currently serves as their CEO, brings a unique understanding of legal publishing to the table. In our e-mail exchange, he offers his perspectives on the current state of legal publishing, the ALM’s use of technology at their website, and how he thinks ALM will fare in a world where traditional publications are continuing to fall by the wayside. See the full text in it’s usual location (after the jump).

Continue Reading Bill Pollak, CEO of ALM [LexBlog Q & A]