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Can legal publishers collaborate with blogs?

December 7, 2012

Amanda Hirsch (@amanda_hirsch), the editor of Collaboration Central and former editorial director of, shares that J-Lab (Institute for Interactive Journalism) just released the results of its three-year Networked Journalism pilot project that called for eight newspapers to network with local blogs.

In its report, Networked Journalism: What Works, J-Lab’s executive director, Jan Schaffer, (@janjlab) outlines the problem the project was designed to explore:

With U.S. newspapers losing more than 42,000 journalists since 2007, local news coverage has suffered. At the same time, hundreds of local blogs and news sites have launched in their markets … What role can traditional news organizations play not only to expose their audiences to more news than they themselves can deliver, but also to connect new sources of information rising throughout their communities?

Per Hirsch, Schaffer concluded for a partnership between community blog partners and a legacy newsroom to work, two things are needed.

First, “it is the responsibility of the hub news organization to provide their news networks with enough visibility and outbound links to drive traffic to their partners’ sites.” And second, “it is the responsibility of the community news partners to post frequently enough to be robust participants and to nab the visibility — either on the network page or the home page — that would bring them traffic.”

It turns out networked publishing did work, especially in communities such as Seattle and Portland where there was a robust blogging community.

Networked publishing in the law can work for the exact same reason as in news publishing. The number of legal journalists is shrinking. So are the number of publications.

At the same time the community of law bloggers is skyrocketing. LexBlog’s LXBN Network alone has over 7,000 lawyer authors, including almost 70% of the AmLaw 200 law firm blogs.

Though the lawyers may not be trained journalists they are experts in the areas on which they blog. Not only do the know the law, but as part of their jobs they are addressing practical issues in their area of law on a daily basis. Who better than to report and comment than those located where the rubber meets the road?

These blogging lawyers are also skilled in writing in an engaging fashion, probably more so than traditional reporters. Such writing is much more likely to be shared across social media than traditional news stories, something of increasing importance with more people getting news and information from social than the publisher itself.

Legacy legal reporting from the likes of ALM, Bloomberg, and Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) have broad news networks. Such companies are very capable of partnering with law blog networks who already curate the best content each day.

The publishers will receive a depth of content they have never had before as well as content covering geographic areas they never reached before – a nice demographic. The publishers will also start getting a toehold in the social media space, something legacy legal publishers are sorely lacking.

The lawyers receive an audience and ‘brand credibility’ that they don’t currently have.

Seems like a good fit, and one that may not require a transfer of monies until the legacy publishers generate significant ad or sponsorship dollars.

What do you think? Can we expect to see networked publishing in the area of legal reporting in the near future?

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