I was reminded by a Facebook post from technologist and the founder of blogging, Dave Winer, that law blogs need to be hosted for perpetuity.

Here’s something basic. If you host blogs, you have an ethical obligation to try to keep the archive online for perpetuity. This allows for bankruptcy or acts of war or god, and mortality, but if you’re not committed to best efforts, then don’t host.

If blogs are not archived and made available for reading forever, we’ve lost someone’s insight and commentary. The links to such a blog’s posts would be lost. Citations to such a blog would be meaningless.

Imagine if we threw away all the law journal/review articles and legal treatises when the author stopped writing or passed. We got their works off the library shelves and tossed them into the dumpster.

Every citation to their works in briefs, court decisions (trial and appellate), briefs, and other journals and treatises would be “dead.”

At first glance, you may think, “So what, someone stops legal blogging or passes, their law blog goes away. Who needs it for posterity sake, other than maybe their relatives?”

We also have a ton of junk and marginal copy out their in the form of law blogs.

Law blogs, once exclusively lawyers reporting on legal developments and exchanging insight and comments to advance legal dialogue, have become the home of many “content marketers.” Rather than legal commentary and news, we have marketers and PR people penning content for lawyers merely to garner search engine rankings and website traffic.

But at the end of the day, we have a ton of good legal insight and commentary being penned by thousands of legal professionals, world-wide. It’s coming on just about every legal topic under the sun, certainly more topics are being covered than in the days before publishing was democratized by blogging.

The blog posts are directed to consumers, business people, in-house counsel, practicing lawyers, judges, law porofessors, law students, law librarians, legal industry suppliers and legal innovators and entrepreneurs.

These posts are regularly cited by other bloggers, mainstream publishers and presenters.

Perhaps more significantly these posts are cited by courts and lawyers in submissions to the court. Not as primary law, but as secondary law, just as law reviews, journals and treatises are cited. Blogs, for that matter, are replacing law reviews and law journals altogether.

Beyond citations by courts and to courts, we need a history of legal news and commentary to search and call upon in our work to advance the law. The history cannot be tossed.

Perpetual hosting may be done by government or quasi-governmental bodies, such as libraries. I believe the Library of Congress already archives a good number of law blogs.

Private companies, such as LexBlog, with business models, in part supported by archiving and syndicating legal blogs are a good possibility as well. We are in the process of archiving and syndicating legal blogs penned by close to 20,000 legal professionals. I don’t see us tossing blog posts.

Hosting costs, not insignificant, are certainly decreasing.

Winer’s right. Blogs need to be archived online for perpetuity.

Facebook will cede its runner-up position in website traffic to YouTube in the next couple of months, according to a new study shared with CNBC by market research firm SimilarWeb.

From CNBC:

The five websites receiving the most traffic in the U.S. in the last several years have been Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo and Amazon, in that order. However, Facebook has seen a severe decline in monthly page visits, from 8.5 billion to 4.7 billion in the last two years, according to the study. Although Facebook’s app traffic has grown, it is not enough to make up for that loss, the study said.

The Facebook drop is pretty apparaent when charted. 

Facebook has been growing in plenty of markets abroad and Facebook users are now spending more time on other Facebook owned platforms, including Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

YouTube is growing, in part, because of increased use on platforms like Chromecast and Smart TVs.

Facebook’s slide doesn’t matter to lawyers — at least those lawyers who grow their business by nurturing relationships and building a name.

Facebook is where more people engage more people than anywhere – online or offline. YouTube is great, but’s a democratized broadcasting platform. Broadcasting is a far cry from listening/reading and commenting in response.

Facebook is a conversation among business colleagues, friends, relatives, and community members. It’s where we hear of a customer’s wedding anniversary celebration and a business partner’s oldest child graduating from college. It’s where we receive news and commentary on a recent legal or business development — and join in the ensuing discussion.

Just yesterday Daniel Rodriguez shared (not announced) on Facebook that with his role complete as Dean at Northwestern Law School he will be headed to Stanford Law School for the fall semester. Likes and comments congratulating him and welcoming him to California ensued from colleagues and friends.

Rodriguez wouldn’t think of leaving the professional and personal interaction with people on Facebook anymore than he would think of leaving Twitter, where he is a force of nature in driving discussuion among innovators in the law, world-wide.

For lawyers and other professionals using Facebook, the discussion only gets richer as we connect and engage to get to know people better, to learn and to build a reputation.

Sure there are those who fear Facebook. They’ll look at the news of Facebook’s website traffic decline as validation that Facebook is evil or a waste of time.

It doesn’t matter to the increasing number of legal professionals who see the growing value of Facebook.

As a legal professional you have multiple places to publish today — Medium, LinkedIn, Forbes, Bloomberg, Above the Law, and many others. But the best place to publish, bar none, is on your own site on your own domain.

Sonia Simone, co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Rainmaker Digital, a widely respected digital marketing provider shared a ten step content marketing checklist this morning.

Number one on her list, “Don’t build on rented land.”

Before you create a single piece of content, Simones advises that you think about where that content will live and how audiences will get to it. Effective online publishing takes too much time and effort to do otherwise.

Nearly all of the content you create needs to live on a domain you control, using a platform you can do as you please with.

That means you’re not publishing the bulk of your original creative content on LinkedIn or Medium. (You can still get the excellent benefits of those platforms by syndicating your content there after you’ve published on your own site.)

And you’re not publishing on a “website in 20 minutes” solution that forces you to use someone else’s domain.

If your domain isn’t www.YourWebsiteName.com, you don’t own your platform.

If you can’t publish what you please, with the wording, sales messages, and images you please, you don’t own your platform.

99 times out of 100 the right solution is a self-hosted WordPress site, per Simone.

Self-hosted meaning your site being hosted by a managed WordPress platform. She’s biased toward StudioPress and me, LexBlog – both of us using WP Engine as our core managed host.

Of course you can use social media to deliver your content to where people congregate and for purposes off engagiung them.

From Simone.

You can absolutely use social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to nurture customer relationships and get the word out about the content you create. They can work beautifully for both purposes. But don’t build your entire business there — it’s a dangerous mistake that can end up costing you hours (or years) of lost work.

Content syndication is only to increase in the years to come. Five years ago everyone held on like grim death to the notion that everything they wrote had to be read only on their site. No more, people are reading content all over – and lawyers are publishing to grow a reputaton and nurture relationships, not to grow web traffic.

Building on rented land raises any number of problems, not the least of which is that the land owner has a different business model than you. They can change the way they do business and change what content gets emphasized in a New York minute. In a worst case, you cant’t easily get your content off their land when you have to.

Don’t fall prey to I’ll get a lot of traffic and lots of people will see me if I publish on rented land.

Blogging is all about reaching the right audience and engaging them, not traffic for the sake of traffic. Strategic and effective blogging on your own site will get you the audience you are looking for.

Good blogging/content marketing is, per Simone, about developing an audience that actually enjoys paying attention to you and demonstrates to that audience that you would be a good person to do business with.

Too important to do other than on your land.

Rand Fishkin, who created an SEO empire at Moz.com, writes that he can’t recall a time when the future of SEO was as clear and obvious as today. Nor can he recall a time “when so many experienced professionals and smart companies buried their heads in the sand about it…”

What’s clear and obvious, per Fishkin, is “SEO in the future will be harder to invest in, harder to win at, with decreasing ROI.”

Competing on searches for phrases on which other lawyers – and Google itself – are trying to rank is going to become a losing proposition.

The reasons:

  1. Plateauing growth of total searches (definitely true in most developed countries, and likely a big reason Google’s willing to compromise on their historic ethical positions to break into China)
  2. Decreasing clickthrough rates on organic results, especially in mobile (as Jumpshot’s clickstream data has proven)
  3. Cannibalization of many popular queries, e.g. weather, sports scores, traffic, definitions, and other simple lookups by voice answers (hard to know exactly how much)
  4. More results answered entirely in Google’s SERPs (hundreds of examples, but here’s another one from just today)
  5. Greater competition vying for less traffic opportunities (as SEO is finally getting the investment it warrants from major brands and companies)
  6. Less opportunities for small sites and emerging companies as a few big players dominate an ever-increasing share of Google’s top results

And the number of no-click searches, growing significantly on mobile.

No-click searches occur when Google presents answers on Google itself without precipitating the need for the user to go to another website to get the information they searched for.

So while the number of no click searches is going up the number of clicks to websites that may provide the information is going down. The number of people visiting Google may be up but so is the number of people who do not leave.

Just off from no-click, Mark Britton, former CEO of Avvo, explained at the company’s Lawyernomics conference this spring that a big reason Avvo sold now was the “Google cul-de-sac” requiring the need to be in a stronger network ala the legal network of Internet Brands, its acquirer.

When searching, the “Google cul-de-sac” kept you on Google, per Britton. You “got what you wanted” via items that generated revenue for Google.

Lawyer listings in Avvo, which traditionally ranked near the top on Google, were supplanted by Google’s results – particularly alarming to Avvo, and presumably to their paying law firm customers.

 

What’s the answer. LexBlog is with Fishkin in thinking long term.

I think in the future, we’d all much rather have 10 Google searches for our brand name than 1,000 Google searches for phrases on which we’re trying to both rank and compete for a click against Google themselves.

SEO is not going away anytime soon. Good lawyers will continue to pay good SEO people for years to come.

The long haul is about your brand name on a search. What do people see and conclude about your authority, trustworthiness, and authenticity in a niche area of the law when they search your name?

Effective August 1, Facebook will no longer permit third-party tools to automatically post to “Profiles.”

Facebook is sunsetting its API which allows users to automatically post updates to their “Profile Page” or News Feed. Only the Facebook API allowing automatic posts to Facebook Pages, will remain.

This technique is used by thousands of WordPress blogs, including hundreds, if not thousands, of law blogs. WordPress blogs mostly accomplished this through the Jetpack plugin owned by WordPress.com’s parent company, Automattic.

LexBlog platform customers will not be affected. We have steered clear of the Jetpack plugin and the protocols for making the connection to enable automatic posting as it posed a security risk to our customer’s sites.

LexBlog is also of the strong belief that posting on social media varies by medium. Personal posting results in greater engagement because of its authenticity.

Nothing Facebook is doing prevents bloggers from sharing their blog posts on Facebook. Like anything worthwhile in life, it’ll require a little personal touch, such as including a note, an excerpt or the entire post on Facebook.

As way of background, here’s the email WordPress.com users received this morning.

We wanted to update you about an upcoming change Facebook is introducing to their platform, and which affects how you may share posts from your Jetpack-connected website to your Facebook account.

Starting August 1, 2018, third-party tools can no longer share posts automatically to Facebook Profiles. This includes Publicize, the Jetpack tool that connects your site to major social media platforms (like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

Will this affect your ability to share content on Facebook? It depends. If you’ve connected a Facebook Profile to your site, then yes: Publicize will no longer be able to share your posts to Facebook. On the other hand, nothing will change if you keep a Facebook Page connected to your site — all your content should still appear directly on Facebook via Publicize. (Not sure what the difference is between a Page and a Profile? Here’s Facebook’s explanation.) You can review and change your social sharing settings by heading to My Site(s) → Sharing.

If you’ve previously used Publicize to connect a Facebook Profile to your website and still want your Facebook followers to see your posts, you have two options. First, you could go the manual route: once you publish a new post, copy its URL and share the link in a new Facebook post. The other option is to convert your Facebook Profile to a Page. This might not be the right solution for everyone, but it’s something to consider if your website focuses on your business, organization, or brand.

While Facebook says it is introducing this change to improve their platform and prevent the misuse of personal profiles, we believe that eliminating cross-posting from WordPress is another step back in Facebook’s support of the open web, especially since it affects people’s ability to interact with their network (unless they’re willing to pay for visibility) We know that this might cause a disruption in the way you and your Facebook followers interact, and if you’d like to share your concerns with Facebook, we urge you to head to their Help Community to speak out.

Again, if you or your law firm has a “Facebook Page,” as opposed to or in addition to your personal Facebook, you may still automatically post your blog posts there. Pages, though, tend to get much less engagement – unless you are paying to get seen.

Sociology professor and author of “Citizens at the Gates: Twitter, Networked Publics, and the Transformation of American Journalism,” Stephen Barnard is the latest to comment on New York Times White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman’s  criticism of Twitter as a lasting medium for journalists.

With so much news, noise and criticism to sift through, Haberman can no longer realize the value she has in the past from Twitter. She can’t continue to respond to those who engage her.

I questioned Haberman’s approach to Twitter, arguing that she may have created some of her own problems by overextending herself on Twitter.

Barnard acknowledges the issues faced by Haberman and others as being real, but nonetheless explains just how important Twitter is for journalists.

Studies have shown that more than half of journalists use Twitter for professional purposes.  They track breaking news and make themselves more accessible to readers. While engaging with the “people formerly known as the audience” can take a toll on reporters, knowing what the public thinks is critical.

My research has shown that we use social media not just to consume news, but also to participate in the process of making, sharing, and critiquing it.  Whether or not journalists have been responsive to the public, they have been there to hear them.

Journalists need to stay on Twitter if they are going to retain the public’s trust and their audience.

The news media cannot regain trust if they stop listening to their audience.  So I urge journalists to stay with us on Twitter.  We need you.  The rules of the game are not perfect, the playing field is not even, and far too many bad actors remain among our ranks.  But, you are our “custodians of conscience,” our referees, if you will.  And, if you leave in the middle of this fight, we all lose.

Twitter is just as important, if not more important, for blogging lawyers.

Established journalists may already have an estabslished audience. Not so for legal professionals.

Listening and sharing, especially other’s stories, on Twitter establishes trust for lawyers. An audience is established. The audience begins to disseminate a lawyer’s posts to grow the lawyer’s audience.

Twitter is invaluable for a blogging lawyer for tracking news and legal developments. Trust also counts when tracking such news and info. Twitter enables lawyers to listen to sources they’ve come to trust via Twitter.

Twitter enables blogging lawyers to get out and mingle with the public — real people the vast majority of lawyers totally ignore. Especially those lawyers who blog solely to get attention for themselves.

Consequently, blogging lawyers who use Twitter make legal services more accessible. The lawyers are out mingling with real people. Individuals begin to trust lawyers as people, see what lawyers do and become more informed in selecting the right lawyer for them – perhaps the blogging lawyer.

Don’t blow off Twitter as a blogging. We need you. And you need Twitter.

A report (pdf) commissioned by the State Bar of California found what most of us recognize already. Bar associatons are impeding access to legal services.

As a sizable portion of the public struggles to afford a lawyer and a sizable portion of the bar struggles to find sufficient fee-paying client work, legal regulators need to seriously evaluate whether the consumer protection benefits of these ethics rules are worth the cost.

The study and report perfomed by William Henderson, a professor at the University of Indiana Maurer School of Law and well known for the study and execution of legal innovation, was done as part of California Bar task force’s consideration of changes to ethics rules that limit the use of legal technology and forbid nonlawyers from owning legal service companies.

Reviewing the report for the ABA Journal, Jason Tashea makes clear the decline in legal services market.

  • National Center for State Courts report, cited by Henderson, that looked at nearly 1 million civil cases from 10 urban counties found that 76 percent of cases involved at least one party who was self-represented, about double the rate from a comparable study 20 years earlier.
  • Unlike other personnel-heavy industries that have grown more expensive, like higher education and medicine, people are forgoing legal services.
  • In 1987, legal services made up 0.435 percent of spending allocation in the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers. In 2016, that number had dropped by more than 40 percent to 0.245 percent. In contrast, college tuition and medicine saw increases in spending of 120.3 percent and 77.6 percent, respectively.
  • Fewer people seeking legal services led to a decrease of this market sector by more than 10 percent between 2007 and 2011, at a loss of $7 billion.
  • Cost pressure on corporate clients has led to more legal work going in-house and a rise of well-financed alternative legal service providers, which cut into the traditional corporate legal market.

Henderson informed the Bar that:

[M]odifying the ethics rules to facilitate greater collaboration across law and other disciplines will (1) drive down costs; (2) improve access; (3) increase predictability and transparency of legal services; (4) aid the growth of new businesses; and (5) elevate the reputation of the legal profession.

The sad part of this all is that the task force’s final report isn’t due until December 31, 2019. Presumably they’ll make a recommendation to the State Bar, who will prsumably assign action on ethics rules to a committee of theirs.

Though Henderson concluded some U.S. jurisdiction needs to go first and based on historical precedent the most likely jurisdiction is California, bar action taken to bring greater access to legal services while helping the average lawyer is unlikely to come anytime soon.

Marketing consultant and author, Euan Semple writes that marketers and “professional communicators” have polluted our networks with industrialized social media.

He’s right.

Not only has social media drifted from real and authentic engagement as means of making strangers less strange, we have consultants teaching industrialized social media as the way of the land and companies selling industrialized social media as a service.

  • Share your blog posts this way and that way.
  • Use the right image.
  • Use these magic words.
  • Run analytics on what and when you share to garner data on the right people, the right mediums, the right words and the right times.
  • Here’s prepackaged articles for sharing.
  • Have us share your “words,” you’re too busy. You don’t even need to know how to log into your social media accounts – or that you even have a social media account, for that matter.
  • Sharing the same items across multiple people’s social media accounts – for maximum effect, of course.
  • Rather than you getting to know and learn from the thought leaders and influencers, we’ll get to “know them” and build relationships with them for you.
  • We’ll write your blog posts and share them for you.
  • Not to worry about engaging other people on social media, social media is for broadcasting your stuff to get “them” to come to your website.

This type of stuff would be funny if it weren’t true.

At times, I feel like Euan.

Sometimes I feel like giving up, conceding defeat to the marketers and “professional communicators” who have polluted our networks with industrialised social media.

Like Euan though, social media done “un-industrialized” style has its wonderful moments.

But then a post will trigger a cracking conversation, a podcast will open up a whole new perspective, a moment of online vulnerability will remind me our shared humanity.

And I’m with Euan, I’m not giving up and I’m not giving into industrialized social media.

Getting to personally know so many fine people who add value to my life in multiple ways in a genuine and authentic fashion is just too valuable to give up.

ReCode’s Jeff Wagner reports this morning that when Facebook reports its second-quarter financial results, after markets close today, analysts are expecting another outstanding quarter, including 43% revenue growth.

Facebook hasn’t missed an increase in quarterly revenues in this decade – if ever.

All of this despite the speed bumps the last year with apps leaking users data and information and Facebook struggling to filter misleading, if not sinister, news and information.  Add to this CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and COO, Sheryl Sandberg living under a rock compared to their open and authentic public engagement via Facebook Live and the like over the last few years.

So despite Facebook maybe trying to shoot itself in the foot, the social network is going as strong as ever.

What does this mean for lawyers?

  • Facebook is not going away, nor are people leaving Facebook in any significant numbers.
  • The public, your clients, referral sources. and the influencers of these two, do not fear social and professional networking on Facebook. If they did, advertisers would not pay for the eyeballs on Facebook.
  • Facebook, including Instagram, remains the largest social network, any way you define it, including as far as the number of users and the time spent on it.
  • If you are not networking on Facebook you are kissing off a lot of engagement, both on personal and professional matters. Engagement that leads to a stronger name and business relationships.
  • Facebook’s revenues tied with its record of innovation is going to lead to more and better networking opportunities for lawyers. Don’t look at Facebook today, imagine how powerful it will be as a medium in a couple more years for those who are building an identity on Facebook today..
  • Instagram (owned by Facebook), a social network I don’t yet use, is going to become more and more important as a means to connect and engage with the people you’d like to get to now. It’s popularity is growing in all age groups.
  • Crawling under a rock claiming Facebook would violate your privacy, that you don’t have the time and that Facebook would not add value to your business and personal life is naive. Especially if you haven’t put in the effort to use Facebook effectively.

Facebook is a huge opportunity for lawyers — and it’s only getting bigger.

Update:  Facebook reported on Wednesday that growth in digital advertising sales and in the number of its users had decelerated in the second quarter.  Zuckerberg added that the trajectory was not likely to improve anytime soon. Though Facebook reported a 42 percent increase in revenue and a 31 percent jump in profits for its second quarter, compared with a year earlier, just missing Wall Street revenues, its stock is taking a big hit in early Thursday trading.

Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for ther New York Times, shared in an op-ed last week that she’s quitting Twitter — because she needs to.

Not that the New York Times wants her to quit using Twitter. Most of their reporters not only use Twitter, but the Times’ encourages them to do so – along with other social networks, including Facebook.

For Haberman, Twitter has become a flawed medium.

Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.

Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face. For me, it had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.

No doubt Haberman had seen value in Twitter.

I got to promote my own stories. I got to provide context. Eventually I started adding more of my voice, dipping my toes in the water to see if I could stand the temperature. I got to defend my reporting and defend my colleagues. I received instant feedback. I met people through Twitter whom I wouldn’t have otherwise. Readers sent me story tips over direct message. Many pointed out errors, but most did it respectfully, and I was appreciative. There was an art to this medium, and I thought I’d figured it out.

And she still does.

To be clear, Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news. I still check my feed to see breaking news developments, and I will continue to. And it is democratic — everyone gets to have a voice, whether they work for a local paper, a small TV station or one of the biggest newspapers in the world, or are not in the media business at all. The downside is that everyone is treated as equally expert on various topics.

So much so that Haberman continues to use Twitter. For sharing her stories, sharing other’s stories and replying to others on Twitter.

If Haberman was halving trouble with Twitter, it may have been the result of how she used Twitter, not because Twitter has become flawed.

Scott Greenfield, questioning Haberman’s argument that Twitter has become a flawed offensive medium, said it well.

Twitter, like any medium, is merely a forum, a platform where there will be smart and dumb, honest and dishonest, good faith and bad. There are remarkably good things, funny jokes, interesting asides and fascinating discussions. And there’s tons of garbage. This was always the case. Even when it was less offensive, it was still largely dumb. After all, the twits come from people, and people aren’t nearly as fabulous as we should be. Not you, of course. You are totally fab. Other people.

Twitter is like the real world. Who you engage and who engages you depends on where you go and who you hang out with. The news and information you receive depends on the trustworthiness and authority of your sources.

If, like Haberman, I follow almost 4,000 people on Twitter and randomly engage many of the over 800,000 people who follow me, things are going to get to be a bit of a nut house. Especially if I start to reason with the unreasonable, something that’s just not impossible.

Using Twitter effectively, as Haberman now appears to be doing, you’ll find that Twitter is great source for information and breaking news, enables you to have a voice where you have not had one before and allows you to meet people you’d not have otherwise met.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger and intellectual dishonesty which Haberman argues is Twitter today is really a world on Twitter that you bring upon yourself.