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Bloggers to be driving force in legal Web journalism

January 26, 2014

The New York Times’ David Carr (@carr2n) has an interesting read in Sunday’s paper on Web journalism asserting itself.

Prompted by popular blogger and columnist, Ezra Klein, leaving the Washington Post to go to Vox Media, an Internet media company with six Internet brands, Carr hits on the essence of digital media.

Mr. Klein is not running away from something, he is going toward something else. Vox is a digitally native business, a technology company that produces media, as opposed to a media company that uses technology. Everything at Vox, from the way it covers subjects, the journalists it hires and the content management systems on which it produces news, is optimized for the current age.

The process of reporting and producing content is totally different, much coming from bloggers such as Klein.

Great digital journalists consume and produce content at the same time, constantly publishing what they are reading and hearing. And by leaving mainstream companies, journalists are often able to get their own hands on the button to publish, which is exciting and gratifying. “If William Randolph Hearst and Bill Paley were alive today, they would think they were in heaven,” suggested Sir Michael Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital.

Digital journalism is as much about the technology as it is about the publishing.

In digital media, technology is not a wingman, it is The Man. Kenneth Lerer, manager of Lerer Ventures and one of the backers of BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, says that whenever he is pitched an editorial idea, he always asks who the technology partner is. How something is made and published is often as important as what is made.

Until now, we’ve assumed digital journalism would evolve from existing journalism. Mainstream media, trade media, and professional journals would, by necessity, would move their copy and subscribers to digital.

That’s not a natural evolution, Business Insider founder, Henry Blodgett, told Carr.

Digital journalism is as different from print and TV journalism as print and TV are from each other. Few people expect great print news organizations to also win in TV. Similarly, few should expect great TV or print organizations to win in digital. The news-gathering, storytelling and distribution approaches are just very different.

Legal Web journalism is asserting itself, just not at the level of Vox Media.

And blogging lawyers are at the heart of legal Web journalism. Lawyers, law professors, law students, and judiciary, consuming and producing content at the same time.

I am not referring to pseudo-bloggers producing content for web traffic. I am referring to lawyers who are following and engaging other bloggers and legal publishers in a real and authentic way. Lawyers offering insight and commentary on niches never covered before.

Lawyers will not be drawn by money and opportunity to join digital media networks. Lawyers will publish and engage, be it blogging versus articles and traditional networking, for the same reason they have for decades. To grow their influence and network of relationships.

Blogging lawyers will come from small and large firms and from rural and metropolitan areas. Large marketing budgets will not be a required. Gatekeeper publishers and editors will not be a hurdle. A keyboard, passion, knowledge, and a willingness to offer insight and commentary in an engaging fashion will get you a sight a the table.

Technology will be important going forward. WordPress, as with digital media networks, gets us only part of the way.

Technology platforms will need to enable curation (manually and via machine learning), encourage lawyers to blog, enable easy mobile consumption and sharing, drive advertising, and harness data generated by user activity.

Legal web journalism may trail the digital media networks which have drawn reporters from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.

But it seems inevitable that legal Web Journalism will assert itself – if it has not already – and that legal bloggers will be the driving force.

Image courtesy of a Flickr by dlev1979.

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