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Legal blogs and journalists

September 6, 2005

A recent study found that 80% of journalists have used blogs as sources and that 40% do so once a week. At the same time the study found that 59% of journalists do not find blogs to be a legitimate source and only 13% of journalists found bloggers to be journalists.

I was asked by a legal marketing professional in a large law firm to comment on what looked to them to be information that legal blogs would not be an effective communications and PR tool. I was also asked what LexBlog and its law firm clients were doing to improve the content of blogs to help raise these numbers.

My response was that one should expect those type of numbers from traditional journalists for a few reasons:

  • Though blogs may be excellent sources for leads, good journalists are going to do follow up sourcing from multiple places. I regularly get calls from journalists as a result of my blog, both using me as a source and asking for other sources. Not one of the journalists has taken a post of mine directly from my blog and reported it as news. They are following up with me and others as part of doing their jobs. Happens to our law firm clients as well.
  • Many journalists do not understand the role of blogs. Blogs do not play the same role as main stream media and are not a replacement of it. Thus to measure blogs against the standards journalists have established is misguided.
  • Journalists, in many cases, wrongfully feel threatened by citizen journalism in the form of blogs. Their natural reaction is then to dis them. More knowledgeable journalists are more open minded and use blogs as a resource. Look at CNN & MSNBC in their coverage of Katrina. They wisely want the input of citizen journalists who are on the streets and have a unique view their journalists, reporters and editors do not. The info provided by citizen journalists and bloggers empowers empowers main stream media. Same thing happened with the bombings in London.

In law, journalists do not have the resources or knowledge to cover each area of law and or locale. But digital educational magazines (blogs) focused on an area of law, locale, product or transaction published by individual lawyers, practice groups or law firms can be the best source of information on such a topic. Lawyers, like them or not (I do), put out some excellent information. Blogs are a tool which empowers the lawyer in getting this information disseminated to, among others, journalists.

I do not view LexBlog’s role as policing our client’s content to impress journalists. Good blogs will rise to the top just like good valuable Web sites. Such blogs will be sourced and linked to by other other blogs when those blogs are writing about relevant topics. As a result of those links, such blogs will rise to the top of traditional and blog search engine results and their authors & their content will be discussed across the Internet. Journalists tend to find those blogs. If the blog is producing poor content and the blog is not worthwhile, neither of these will happen. Sure, there are a lot of bad blogs but they tend not to be seen – the net is very democratizing.

Our role, in addition to providing a powerful publishing platform, is to teach our clients how to publish content and use RSS, follow up with their work along the way and make sure what they are publishing is getting heard. By and large, LexBlog’s clients are doing a very nice job.