By Kevin O'Keefe

The path to success for law bloggers is the “Long Tail”

If you are a blogging lawyer or a lawyer who wants to know how to build a big name for yourself through blogging, you need to understand the concept of the Long Tail.

The Long Tail was first written about by Chris Anderson (@chr1sa), then editor of Wired Magazine, over 10 years ago. First in an article and then in a book. Both are worth a read.

The theory of the Long Tail,” as explained by Anderson, is that:

…[O]ur culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

The Long Tail reflects just how much demand there is in niches.

When consumers are offered infinite choice, the true shape of demand is revealed. And it turns out to be less hit-centric than we thought. People gravitate towards niches because they satisfy narrow interests better, and in one aspect of our life or another we all have some narrow interest (whether we think of it that way or not).

Here’s a sketch from Anderson depicting the “hits” in the Head and the niche demand in the Long Tail, which goes on forever.

Long tail lawyer blogs

Thinking of music drives the point home. It used to be that more music was purchased on cassette tapes at Walmart than just about anywhere. The music available were the 200 or 300 “hits.” You could get cassettes of the most popular music of the day as well as music from well known artists.

But music from a folk artist singing a certain type of a song? Hardly. That sort of niche was not a “hit” and would not merit studio time, distribution and promotion. Cassettes from these artists would not make Walmart’s shelves.

The Internet changed all that. Sure, iTunes carries a lot of distribution clout, but an artist can record and reach an audience using technology and the Intenet in a way never before possible. The audience can be small as it doesn’t cost much for production or distribution. The audience is far down the tail, and profitable — at least to this artist.

What’s the “Long Tail” have to to do with lawyers and blogs? A ton.

Imagine 15 years ago walking into American Lawyer Media (ALM), West Law (Thomson Reuters), LexisNexis, or BNA (Bloomberg) and saying I’ve got an idea for a new magazine. Chicago IP Litigation, LGBT Family Law in Texas, Probate Litigation in Florida, or Connecticut Employment Law.

You’d explain that your audience is small, but really in need of insight and information on the niche. “Nothing else is available,” you’d tell them.

You’d get no where. Those companies publish only “hits,” magazines and publications which draw a lot of subscribers at the Head of the tail. The costs of production and distribution prevent doing otherwise.

Today, you take that publication online in the form of a blog.

Your blog may look nicer than online publications from the big boys and may run on better publishing technology. Your publication will cover information and news not covered by the big boys. The publication will be in huge demand by a significant number of people — more than enough for you to make a name for yourself and make a good living as a lawyer.

You and your publication will not be one of the “hits” at the Head of the demand curve. You and your publication will be out on the Long Tail. Something only made possible by the net and blogging.

Not only does the Long Tail offer opportunities not there before, the Long Tail is where you want to blog.

Don’t be sucked into the foolery that you’re looking for traffic and large numbers. That’s for law sites looking to sell ads. Think Above the Law or Law.com.

You are looking for a small audience who is looking for a trusted source of information on a niche. A trusted source some people will look to cite and others will look to hire.

As Anderson explains, people gravitate towards niches because they satisfy narrow interests better.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

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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