Hard to believe I could be learning about the future of legal publsihing from the Zsa Zsa like character I saw on TV in the California Gubnetorial debates. But Arianna Huffington has launched a heck of a media force with her Huffington Post. Ariana before and after is aptly described by Richard Siklos in Fortune Magazine this week.
Before the launch of the Huffington Post in 2005, she was an easily caricatured Greek-born pundit and author who seemed to know everyone and have an opinion about everything. Nowadays, thanks in large measure to the growing chatter about the Huffington Post, she is gaining not just media cred but the kind that comes with being one of those few people who supposedly ‘gets’ the web.
How did she get to the point where at a recent cocktail party she had Rupert Murdoch nodding with approval when told of Huffington Post’s 3 million visitors per month? Blogs.
Unlike a conventional newspaper that devotes the majority of its resources to basic newsgathering, the Huffington Post instead devoted its scant editorial budget to hiring a few key editors, staff bloggers, and political reporters who post links to the day’s stories and imbue the site with a dishy and slightly indignant sensibility, while giving the endless parade of invited bloggers co-star status on the Arianna Show. To date, some 1,600 bloggers have accepted Huffington’s invitation to write. They are given a password to log into the site’s publishing system and blog at will.
It’s an ever-changing stew. On a given day John Cusack, Deepak Chopra, Nora Ephron, Bill Moyers, Al Franken, Bill Maher, Governor Bill Richardson, John Kerry, and scores of other politicos, actors, activists, and academics take to the digital pages of the Post with their views, causes, and beefs.
And like traditional legal publsihers who have dismissed blogs, or at least continue to pour most of their money into publishing periodicals, journals, and reviews, Huffington was easily dismissed by mainstream media. Siklos reports they gave scant chance to a collection of blogs by Huffington and her Hollywood pals. They “held blogging in roughly the same esteem that Oscar-winning thespians have for dinner theater on cruise ships.”
I am not suggesting that lawyers blog in the likelness of Huffington bloggers. However, the concept of an aggregated blog featuring hyperlinks to various third news sources and columnists may signal the new age of legal publishing. We at least need to look at such models to expand our horizons as to what legal publishing could become.
Niche legal publsihers with far more expertise in partcular areas of the law than traditional reporters, editors, and publishers offer tremendous value to other lawyers and the public at large. They always have. But until blogs and the ability to curate such law content, we didn’t have a medium for the publishing and consumption of such content.