Bill Pollak, CEO of ALM (f/k/a American Lawyer Media), shared his take on the role of social media in the news industry today in a blog post this morning.

The genesis of Pollak’s blog post was this week’s issue of The Economist which reported on the state of the news industry.

Its point is that we are headed away from an era of mass production/consumption of news, and toward a time of more personal and collaborative information sharing — akin, they argue, to the way news was transmitted 200 years ago (but, of course, much faster).

As to social media:

One section of the report focuses on Social Media, which has evolved from a sideshow to a “valuable adjunct to traditional media”. As the report says, traditional journalists are now increasingly using social media tools to not only engage with their audience but to source stories and spot trends.  Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have become legitimate tools in newsrooms around the world, with YouTube and other sharing sites also playing important roles.

Pollak shared how much news he now gets from social media and why such news is so valuable.

…[I]n my case, recommended articles from those I follow on Twitter now make up  5-10% of my reading.  Not a big share, but certainly a slice that did not exist a few years ago.  Those socially linked articles tend to be much more eclectic than my normal reading, leading me in directions that I probably would not have gone without those Twitter recommendations.  If we are entering a world where one’s social media connections act as curators or guides to content, than it certainly behooves us to do all we can to ensure that our content is linked to and “liked” by those who are agenda-setters in the industries we cover.

Anne Jackley, Director of Digital Products at ALM, in a comment to Pollak’s shared that 50% of her reading comes from info and news shared by social media.

I’m surprised that social recommendations represent only 5-10% of your reading. Curated content has dramatically changed my reading habits over the past year. I highly value content that’s linked to from people I follow, and these days a recommended link takes precedence over something that’s passively waiting for me to come to it. My reading from social feeds has increased to at least 50%, probably even more some weeks.

The key for you as a lawyer or law firm leader is to realize three things.

First, you are too busy to rely on the old form of reading news and information as a means of staying up to speed. Finding ‘intelligence agents’ you trust to share information, news, insight, and commentary via blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now, Google+ is invaluable.

Not only do you get info in an elegant and more effective way from those you trust (trust is key), but you also are getting information from those most knowledgeable about the subject. No way a reporter interviewing two or three authorities can offer the same quality as a domain expert on a subject.

Second, you need to get your insight and commentary as an authority out in social media so that people who others trust can share your insight and commentary through social media.

This does not come from auto-feeding content into social media. Such a practice reflects poor judgment as no one joins a social network or participates in social media to have articles or alerts (or evan blog posts) pushed at them.

Getting your information and insight shared requires you to share others’ contributions first. That way you build social media equity. The result being that others will share your contributions with others that trust them.

Third, reporters and editors are not sitting on their can waiting for a press release or public relations professional to contact them regarding a story. Those days are over. Reporters and editors are not even running Google searches to get insight and identify experts to call. The media is relying on social media to identify lawyer experts and get insight on stories as well as ideas for new stories.

If you don’t have an effective presence in social media as a lawyer or law firm, you don’t exist in the media’s mind.