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Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one

October 16, 2016

This from press critic A. J. Liebling in 1959 cited last week by veteran blogger, media critic and NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu), on launching a new design for his independent blog, PressThink.

I like having my own joint. My friend Dave Winer — who had a hand in the origination of blogging software, RSS and podcasting — has over many years of conversation gotten through to me that you should always have your own place on the open web. Doc Searls has also helped to persuade me of this.

Anyone who pays attention to online publishing knows that the trend is in an opposite direction, toward capitulation to the platforms: Facebook with its instant articles, Google AMP,, Apple News. I fully understand why the platforms are winning, and I don’t resent them, but I also don’t feel compelled to join in.

Rosen continued:

Having a space that’s mine on the web — — is for me indistinguishable from owning my own printing press and hosting my own discussion forum. I’m not ready to give those up those powers.
I don’t think indy blogging is done for. No way. More likely it’s due for a re-birth. My own circumstances are fortunate. I don’t have to make money from my site, or generate big traffic. The PressThink archives are hugely important to me, even if they only draw a handful of users per week. I practice slow blogging: 20 to 30 posts a year. But each one has hundreds of hours of thought behind it. PressThink is not a commercial proposition. It’s the extreme opposite of click bait: an academic project and labor of love.

Rosen’s points are equally applicable to lawyers. Lawyers don’t make money from their blog, lawyers make money a result of their blogging. The reputation and relationships built from blogging grow a lawyer’s a business. Lawyers are not chasing ad revenue from traffic.

I get why lawyers choose to publish on LinkedIn, Medium, Facebook and third party owned blogs, publications and syndication services. Traffic as a measure of ROI.

But I’m not sure the lawyers appreciate what they’re giving up by not having their own blog.

  • Inability to claim the mantle of expertise that comes with a publication versus writing content on a third party site.
  • Not owning nor controling their publishing environment.
  • Content at risk of being made less visible or disappearing altogether from the third party site altogether.
  • Limitations on content being cited, shared, and flowing seamlessly across the open web.
  • Third party publisher’s site is tailored to an advertising based business model contingent on traffic, as opposed to building the contributing professional’s repuationns and relationships and a word.
  • Limited availability on search over time.

There will always be the attraction of publishing on a site which garners a lot of attention. But, I’m with Rosen and other blog veterans, Searls and Winer, there’s no substitute for having a place of my own.

I enjoy sharing my posts with Above The Law, the most highly trafficked site in the legal industry — by far. But I would never give up my blog.

My blog is my printing press. My blog represents my body of work as a thought leader in the business. People sizing up my company and I can see that I stay abreast of developments and share commentary and information.

With the advent of blogs for lawyers a decade plus ago, lawyers were no longer beholden to intermediaries such as publishers and reporters to get their word out. Blogging handed lawyers their own printing press.

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