The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) reports that The New York Times lost 80 million homepage visitors—half the traffic to the nytimes.com page—in two years.

This is the clearest illustration of the demise of homepages I’ve seen. …News used to be a destination, and you would go find it on your driveway and in your browser. Now you’re the destination, and “information—status updates, photos of your friends, videos of Solange, and sometimes even news articles—come at you; they find you,” Quartz’s Zach Seward writes.

The death of homepages on law firm websites is likely to be much the same.

Law firms list their websites in online and offline directories. Search engine optimization tactics are used to draw traffic to the firm’s homepage. Website navigation schemas are developed to get users to browse to industries, areas of the law, about the firm, the people, office locations, and articles.

If people don’t browse pages on a website by going through homepages, where are people going to come from? Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Google+ – you name it.

Thompson believes the death of homepages in the news industry gives rise to news that’s more about the readers.

[H]omepages reflect the values of institutions, and Facebook and Twitter reflect the interest of individual readers. These digital grazers have shown again and again that they aren’t interested in hard news, but rather entertainment, self-help, awe, and outrage dressed up news. Digitally native publishers are pretty good at pumping this kind of stuff out.

Carry this to law firms. It will be increasingly difficult for marketing to control messaging and branding via websites as designed today. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs reflect the interests of the community as a whole.

This community, through citing and sharing the type of content they like, will control how often your website is viewed and what people view on your site. It’s this community who will decide what is of interest on your site, not you.

Until now, people came in through the well designed and branded foyer of your law firm. Now people are coming in through the windows, backdoors, and cracks. They view what other people talk about on social and send them to.

To get people to view what you’d like them to view on your website it will be more important to work on your social media presence than to work on your website. Active and decentralized social activity by lawyers and other law firm professionals will be as important, if not more important, than website design and SEO.

As in the news industry, the death of homepages is beginning to change how information is consumed on law firm websites. We’re just seeing the start today.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Winterofdiscontent