Today we follow up yesterday’s LexBlog Q & A (in which we interviewed Connecticut employment blogger Dan Schwartz) with a very different interview subject: Ed Adams, editor and publisher of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, who took over the position in 2006.
In our e-mail interview, Ed discusses his vision for the ABA Journal going into the job, responds to criticism regarding the Journal’s Blawg 100, and more.
1. Rob La Gatta: When you took over as editor and publisher of the ABA Journal in 2006, what vision did you have for pushing the Journal forward? Now that it’s almost 2008, do you think you’ve made significant progress?
Ed Adams: I and my new colleagues wanted to redesign the magazine – a process that was almost complete before I arrived. We now have covers that would look at home on any newsstand, more space for art and information graphics, and a cleaner, contemporary feel.
More than half the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers read ABA Journal every month. So we wanted to write more stories that appeal to every member of our audience, regardless of what niche of the profession they work in. Some of our recent cover stories are good examples of that: what happened behind the scenes at Saddam Hussein’s trial; Scott Turow’s essay about why the billable hour may be unethical; 101 tips, tricks and tools to make lawyers more productive and less stressed-out; and our special single-topic issue about the attorneys who have been on the legal frontlines of the War on Terror since 9/11.
Online, we wanted to create a site that was the place to come for breaking legal news. ABAJournal.com is updated with 25-50 new stories every business day, and has an archive of the full text of the magazine going back to 2004.
2. Rob La Gatta: When looking at the ABA Journal’s website now compared to what it was a few years ago, one of the most noticeable difference is that today blogs represent a good chunk of the featured content. At what point did the Journal decide that legal blogs were a medium worth featuring, and what prompted this?
Ed Adams: When we were revamping the website this summer, we knew we wanted to incorporate blawgs because they’re an incredible resource for our readers. Often just minutes after ABAJournal.com posts a news story, lawyer/bloggers are providing their expert analysis of the latest legal developments.
We know from reader studies that most lawyers still wouldn’t know a blog if it tapped them on the shoulder. So we thought our blawg directory could introduce them to the phenomenon by helping them find the blawgs that interest them. It now has more than 1,500 listings in dozens of practice areas, every state in the nation, and almost every law school.
3. Rob La Gatta: It’s no secret that most big newspapers are losing print revenues and being forced to become more competitive online. Has the ABA Journal been faced with similar problems? Do you think that focusing on the Journal’s online presence is the most important way to keep readers coming in?
Ed Adams: Our advertisers are smart; they realize that online and print are not an either/or proposition. There’s still no better way to communicate a brand than through an ad in a glossy magazine. But when an advertiser wants to focus on a call to action, online makes perfect sense. That’s why we’ve seen double-digit ad revenue growth in both print and online simultaneously.
Readers are telling us that online doesn’t replace print. They look for different kinds of information from the two mediums. Long trend stories and profiles work better in print, where the reader can hold the story in their hands. But nothing delivers breaking legal news better than the Web.
4. Rob La Gatta: How would you respond to the criticism that the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 doesn’t do justice to the many niche focused blogs operating within the legal blogosphere? Do you personally believe that there are 100 law blogs that are definitively the best?
Ed Adams: Obviously, I think one can assemble a list of the 100 best blawgs – that’s what we did. Just as obviously, everyone’s list of the 100 best would be different from everyone else’s. And we had plenty of “niche” blawgs on our list, particularly in the Black Letter Law category.
The more interesting criticism, I think, is the notion that lists of great blawgs somehow will reduce traffic to niche blawgs, or make it harder to find them. Quite the contrary, I think. Lawyers will check out the top blogs, and in the process, stumble across blawgs that may not be as objectively great, but are great for them.
5. Rob La Gatta: 2008 is just around the corner. Do you have any big plans for the ABA Journal in the coming year, and if so, what can you tell us about them?
Ed Adams: We’ve got huge plans. And you’ll just have to wait and see.
Interested in hearing more? Check out some of our other featured guests…Ed is just the latest in our ongoing series of legal blog interviews for the LexBlog Q & A.