Is selling out for traffic a long-term law blog strategy?


This from veteran business, technology and new media reporter and columnist Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) in a piece on traffic being a good thing to pay attention to  — except when it isn’t.

One of the biggest differences between online media and traditional media is that the former is so much easier to measure — every eyeball, every pageview and every click can be quantified and tracked and analyzed in real time. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? And should journalists, or writers of any kind, be compensated based on how much traffic or engagement they bring in? Those kinds of questions trigger everything from excitement to horror in media circles.

Ingram’s comments followed the NY Times’ David Carr’s (@carr2n) commentary that risks abound as reporters focus on traffic.

The problem one gets into is losing site of the end goal. If you’re looking at what’s popular all the time, you tend to start to writing on what’s popular. Over and over again. You end up with cats.

As Buzzfeed founder, Jonah Peretti (@peretti), says you end up with the  “side-boob” problem:

If you are a slave to the numbers, then you start creating more stuff like that and more stuff like that and more stuff like that, and pretty soon you will have a site full of trash and salacious garbage.

Mary Clare Fischer (@mc_fisher) of the American Journalism Review reports The Verge, a leading technology news and media network operated by Vox Media, does not share site metrics with their writers. They want their reporters to cover what’s important, not what’s trendy.

Admittedly the above situations are dealing with media companies, not law firms.  Media companies, unlike law firms, are faced with the dilemma of garnering enough traffic for advertisers versus making certain reporters cover what’s important.

What’s this have to do with law firms? Lots. Law firms, like most media companies focus on traffic and stats as a measure of gains when blogging. And like media companies, a strategy focused on traffic is misguided.

This afternoon’s phone call with a law firm marketing director was all too typical. “One last question for our account manager, I want to confirm the stats to our blogs so I can let our lawyers know how they are doing with their blogs.” As if traffic could tell the firm’s lawyers how they are doing with their blogging.

Better questions? Perhaps focusing on what the goals for the blog were. There’s no chance that traffic was identified as the end in mind when we did our strategy conference with the lawyers before we kicked off a blog.

Goals then were apt to be things such as retaining an existing client base in a niche, expanding that client base, establishing a lawyer or two as “go-to” lawyers in the niche, speaking at conferences, being cited by the press, and more.

And how to achieve those goals? Listening to the conversation in the niche? Engaging those in that conversation via your blog posts. Using best blogging practices. Staying focused on what you’re passionate about. Making sure you’re having fun.

Getting traffic is not your goal as a blogging lawyer or law firm. It’s only natural to look traffic numbers now and again. But traffic is not a long term strategy.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jesse Menn

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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