A number of legal professionals use the on-line publishing platform, Medium, for the publishing of their articles. Many are attracted by the distrubution of their content to other relevant Medium users.

Plus this ditribution and the platform was free. No more.

Medium has shifted from a free and open publishing platform and community, to a paywall model where the content of publishers on Medium is only distributed to those who are paid subscribers to Medium.

Quincy Larson, founder of the web development community, freeCodeCamp (web development of millions) and one of the most-followed authors on Medium, with 158,000 followers, reports that Medium barely shows his articles to anyone.

How so?

“Medium has shifted to a paywall model where they mainly recommend paywalled articles, then encourage visitors to pay to get around their paywall.”

Checking Medium’s front page, Larson found three of four trending articles were paywalled. Non-paywalled articles no longer get recommended. 

“…[N]ot much of the traffic to Medium articles comes from Medium itself. Most of it comes from Google and social media.”

Legal professionals who see Medium as giving their content more distribution are kidding themselves.

“As of 2019, Medium won’t give you much “distribution” within their platform unless you’re willing to put your articles to be behind their paywall.

At the same time, if you do put your article behind their paywall, you’re limiting your readership to just the people who have the resources to pay.”

Wanting to make his articles and the learning resources of the freeCodeCamp community widely available, Larson moved off Medium.

Beyond distribution, Larson realized other signifcant benefits.

  • Faster site speed, something that’s a benefit for readers, something that means higher search rankings on Google and something that will result in appearing more often on social networks.
  • Full control of content and the publishing experience.
  • Better anylitics
  • A lot more readers.
  • Ability to publish more than just content, ie, audio and video.
  • Publish in any language

When Ev Williams, a co-founder of Blogger and Twitter, founded Medium seven years with the goal of an easy to use blog publishing platform with a community effect where users would recommend and share posts to other users.

A series of unsuccessful business models has now resulted in a paywall model where content is no longer shared and declining platform performance, as compared to other publishing platforms receiving upgrades and feature enhancements multiple times a year.

It’s hard to see Medium as credible publishing platform for legal professionals who are blogging or just looking to publish on an infreqeunt basis.

Loss of control of your content always made Medium questionable.

Now we have the paywall model, and the same game played by traditional legal publishers – write for us for the exposure and then we’ll move your content beyond a paywall. And in the case some legal publishers, delete the content altogether.

A reporter with a state legal publication asked me what I would say to someone who questioned the legitimacy of law bloggers as journalists as they are not beholden to the ethics of journalism and the objectivity that is the hallmark of journalism (or supposed be). A law bloggers first-hand knowledge could include biased views.

The reporter agreed with me that blogging lawyers are providing the best legal information out there. But are lawyer bloggers constrained by ethics rules, credibility, reputation?

I am not a traditional journalist, I was handed a printing press and distribution channel when the Internet and, particularly, blogs, arrived.

My take is that  journalism, like everything, changes and oftentimes dramatic change comes when we realize greater value from innovation. Think of Amazon for books, Uber for rides to the airport and much more. 

When our oldest graduated from journalism school a decade ago, the dean, in addressing the graduating class, said there was never a more exciting or better time to get a journalism degree. “When else in time had an industry been turned upside down dropping out all those in authority so that everyone was free to play a role in shaping the future?”

As a practicing lawyer I was regularly called by journalists who were required to to have a couple different sources. And they sold news by controversy. I said it was light outside, and another lawyer said it was dark. That was news.

With the advent of the Internet and blogs, news was democratized. I could report, without waiting for a call – a call that may never came because someone decided not to report what others may have called “news.”

If someone wanted to differ with what I said, they could jump online and opine. People could decide what and who they believed, without having a reporter who had no domain expertise write it up for them.

We have more news from more reliable sources as a result of the Internet.

Want to find out what is causing a disruption downtown in any community, jump on Twitter or Facebook and get first hand reporting with pictures and video. No one says I need someone bound by the ethics of journalism before this is news I can rely on – it is the news today. 

It’s the same for other forms of legal publishing. Peer reviewed law journals and law reviews were historically reviewed as the source of secondary law. No more.

Law blogs published by practicing lawyers, academics and other legal professionals with niche expertise blog are viewed as the equal, if not superior, to law reviews. 

The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics provides:

Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

The Society declares four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.

  • Seek truth and report it
  • Minimize harm
  • Act independently 
  • Be accountable and transparent

Legitimate law bloggers already abide by these principals. Maybe more so than a traditional journalist – try getting one of them to be accountable and transparent in a Twitter, Facebook or blog discussion. Heck most legal reporters don’t even use Twitter.

Acting independently references getting paid to do a story or doing advertising in the form of a story, the later I’ll confess lackey law bloggers do and some companies do for them.

We are in the age of citizen journalists, worldwide, law bloggers included. Whether traditional journalists may think we’re a lesser journalist is irrelevant, society has already spoken. 

Jeffery Zeldman, one one of the country’s leading web designers, wrote this morning about continuing to learn, and in the process nailed what I see blogging as all about.

When I shared what I was learning, by writing about it—when I learned what I was learning by teaching it—I felt euphoric. We were at the dawn of a new kind of information age: one that came from the people, and to which anyone could contribute merely by learning a few simple HTML elements. It was going to be great. And democratic. And empowering. Our tech would uplift the whole suffering world.

Zeldman’s been blogging, in various formats, about tech and development for decades. Yet the concept of blogging Zeldman speaks of is the same for legal professionals.

Blogging may just be the best way to learn you have at your disposal. After all, many of the the better legal bloggers are not blogging to show off intellect, intellect being more of a commodity than legal professionals believe. They’re sharing what they are learning, as away of learning in and of itself.

Blog what you’re reading and following. Share your take – “I share this because” or “I took this from what she’s saying here.”

What Zeldman was learning years ago was not easy, but the years have masked the pain. Most importantly, Zeldman was blogging and learning for a noble reason – himself.

Most of all, I falsely remember it being easy to learn HTML, CSS, and Photoshop because I wanted to learn those things. I was doing it for me, not for a job, and certainly not to keep up. 

I was a pioneer—we all were, back then. I was passionate about the possibilities of the web and eager to contribute. 

Back in 2004, I had not a clue what SEO (search engine optimization) was all about. Listening to someone speak about SEO made me nauseous. It was too hard, I’d never be able to learn how it worked.

But I was starting a blogging company for lawyers as a way for lawyers to connect with people in a real and authentic way. Something I believed then, and still do, was needed for people to find and trust a good lawyer. I needed to know SEO.

This cause drove me to Barnes and Noble where I picked up SEO for Dummies. Over a July 4th weekend, I read the book twice and outlined what I learned. Finally I blogged what I was learning in a series of posts.

Reading and outlining was good, but the blogging part which meant reading again what I was going to share, thinking about what I was going to blog, relaying it through my fingers on the keyboard and then reviewing/editing my copy on the screen turned out to be the best method of learning SEO. This knowledge of SEO has stuck with me to this day.

Zeldman says the same more succinctly.

With every new discovery I made and shared, I felt a sense of mastery and control, and a tingling certainty that I was physically contributing to a better world of the near-future. A world forged in the best tech ever: simple, human-readable HTML.

With age, 23 years since I started sharing online what I was reading, comes the continuing need to blog for learning.

Foe you as a legal professional, blogging is not just for the new associates or junior associates looking to build a book of business.

Heed Zeldman.

At my age, change comes harder than it used to. Guess what? That means I need to change, not just to do my job; I need to change to stay young. (No, that’s not science, but yes, it works.) When it’s hard to move, you need to start exercising, even if starting is hard. When you’re trapped in a dead-end relationship, it’s time to say goodbye, even though breaking up is sad and scary and hard as hell. And if you work in tech and find yourself thinking your past learning gets you off the hook from having to learn new things, you need to think again.

Learning new things is hard, and it gets harder if you’re rusty at it, but it gets easier if you keep at it. Or so I tell myself, and my friends tell me.

Blogging can be tough, but you can do it – if the cause is strong enough – you.

And what Zeldman says about learning development applies to learning blogging.

You can do this, because I can, and I’m more stubborn and more full of myself than you ever were.

So to my old-school sisters and brothers in HTML. If you’re struggling to learn new things today so you can do your job better tomorrow, I’m going to tell you what a friend told me this morning:

“You got this.”

Blogging 15 years ago came easy to me. I was building a company, a company that I thought could bring real positive change to the legal industry.

I shared what I was learning – as I sure as heck didn’t know anything about blogging at the time.

Blogging was a conversation, people I referenced in my blog posts provided their take in response on their blog. Like Zeldman says, it was the dawn of a new information age, a democratic one where everyone could participate. We were all learning together. It was easy to be excited.

Social media, when used poorly, and blogging for content marketing have since created a lot of noise. People all over who have little interest in using the Internet to share what they are learning to advance themselves.

But blogging for you, and me, – to learn, to find out what we know – still works.

I need to get on the wagon more often. We all do.

LexBlog, with its aggregation of law blog posts, worldwide, and blogger profiles has been described as a legal blogging community.

The Illinois State Bar Association’s Illinois Lawyer Now, launched this week to publish an aggregation of member blog posts and blogger profiles has been described as a community of Illinois legal bloggers – at least those of whom are members of the Illinois State Bar Association. 

But the legal blogging community has always been there – whether LexBlog or Illinois Lawyer Now came about or not.

Continue Reading The Legal Blogging Community Has Always Been There

Big kudos to the Illinois State Bar Association for shining a light on their state’s blogging lawyers with the launch this week of Illinois Lawyer Now

Illinois Lawyer Now aggregates all of the posts on blogs published by members of the Illinois Bar and curates the posts into a constantly updated legal news and commentary publication, which also includes original articles from the Bar and contributors.

Each blog, blogging lawyer and law firm with contributing blogs is profiled in individual pages on the site. 

Continue Reading Illinois Bar Shines a Light on Legal Bloggers With Illinois Lawyer Now

Northwestern Law Professor and widely respected author and speaker on legal tech and innovation, Dan Linna, told the UK’s Law Gazette that the lack of community leadership is stopping a true legal tech community from being formed. 

I responded on Twitter that while the Internet drives countless communities in other verticals and causes, we’re lacking a strong legal tech community and leadership because the people brining us legal tech are absent from the discussion – they do not use the Internet. 

A Twitter discussion ensued as to how to form such an online community, and how to frame and advance such a discussion. 

  • Should the forum be open or private?
  • What platform should be used for the discussion, ie, Slack to other discussion and thought design mediums.
  • Getting people together face to face to discuss how to advance the discussion on how to build a community.
  • Forming a new Facebook or joining in an existing one.

Rather than discuss how to form a community and what medium should be used, why not just start using the medium we have, the open Internet, and get the people we need in the discussion, the legal tech company leaders and legal entrepreneurs.

Our legal profession is notorious for lack of action and studying things to death. Partially out of protectionism and partially for fear of a real and authentic discussion listened to and engaged by all.

 Many in legal tech are acting, talking, and seizing the opportunity to bring access to legal services. 

Let’s now use the open net to share ideas, collaborate, and advance ideas, software and other technology. 

The net is an open communication medium. Starting with Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), usenet groups, AOL, message boards and, close to twenty years ago, blogs. You listened to what was being said and, if so inclined, you engaged in the discussion.

No one discussed how we should begin to talk, collaborate and network through the Internet. Various Google apps, Twitter, Medium and countless other tech advancements and products grew out of blog conversations.

The outcome:

  • Real and authentic insight and commentary, directly from the people in the know.
  • Advancement of ideas, concepts, software and products ensued.
  • Real leadership formed, by virtue of the discussion.
  • Trust or distrust developed in people, their companies or their products. 
  • Reputations were built so as to make for true, not manufactured influence.
  • Relationships were built so we knew who to trust when they shared news and information. 

Today, we have legal tech companies whose leaders are totally absent from the discussion. They “speak” through PR and communications people. Using social media, they get hired hands who know little of the underlying technology and its relationship to the law to cover for them.

Even tech organizations such as Legal Hackers, with about 200 chapters, worldwide, shy way from blogging to collaborate, to dialogue with us and to advance their important projects. Their Internet presence, if you want to call it a presence, comes largely in the form of websites.

I am no net guru, but a legal tech community starts with getting the players to participate. If legal tech company leaders are not participating l, call them out. Ask them what they are afraid of, why they do not want to give of themselves, what they are trying hide and why they don’t want to build trust with the community.

Leadership, like Linna talks of, arises of out action – of discussion in the community and open advancement of ideas and technology. Leadership is not another organization, conference or a title. 

Community requires inclusion.

  • Community is open to all on the Internet. Those talking and those listening. Ideas and leaders can come from anyone, anywhere in the world.
  • Community does not come by invitation, anymore than one would need an invitation to use the Internet.
  • Inclusion requires going where the people are, not where you feel comfortable. Blogging and other social media – listening and talking, personally

The Internet is a wonderful place, when used. We have a lot at stake in legal technology, and so do the people we serve. 

How about we be a little vulnerable and start conversing. Our community will evolve and leadership will arise through participation and action. 

I am headed to the annual Legal Marketing Association Conference (“LMA”) in Atlanta next week. I’ll be joined by Dan Mintz, who heads LexBlog’s sales and business development.

Dan’s a good person who comes with a lot of passion and care. Like me, he sees business development as all about relationships. People buy people, not products. So don’t be surprised if Dan reaches out to say hi or to meet with you – if he hasn’t already. 

With LexBlog’s evolution from solely a professional turnkey blog publishing platform to a legal news and commentary network with over 22,000 law blog contributors, the feel of LMA has changed for us.

As the publisher of legal news and commentary, we’re looking to help, at no cost, law firms and those agencies helping law firms.

  • LexBlog is now publishing and syndicating law firm blogs, at no cost, whether the law firm is using LexBlog’s publishing platform or not. Each lawyer, blog and law firm receives a profile, automatically and at no cost. We’re looking to talk to those law firms whose blogs are not already on LexBlog. I saw a number of large law firms who we reached out to meet in Atlanta have already submitted their blogs.
  • PR and marketing agencies have law firm customers looking for exposure. We want to talk with you about your syndicating your clients publishing to LexBlog – at no cost.
  • Coverage about you from LMA. I have been contacted by a number of companies and PR professionals to report on product or service offerings. I am happy to do so, as relevant and newsworthy, via video or Twitter – you’d be surprised what you can report in 280 characters. LexBlog can then pick up my coverage.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a business model founded on our managed WordPress platform for the law.

Just as the Washington Post does with the licensing of their own Arc Publishing platform to other newspapers, LexBlog’s legal publishing platform powers blogs, micro-sites, digital magazines and websites for law firms, marketing and PR agencies and other organizations.

Mintz has lined up meetings with a number of law firms and digital agencies. Agencies and PR professionals are looking to use LexBlog’s platform as a more powerful and less costly platform than something they development on their own. 

Socially, I am always happy to get together. Look me up or drop me an email if you’d like to get together. 

Last, but not least, LexBlog’s Beer for Bloggers comes to Atlanta – or at least a version of it – on Monday evening at 5 at Gibney’s Pub, 231 Peachtree St NE – a short walk from the conference hotel. 

Siteimprove and LexBlog sponsoring a joint happy hour for members of the Legal Marketing Association Marketing Technology, PR & Communications, and Social & Digital Media SIGs. All who attend will be eligible for our door prize – an Apple Watch courtesy of Infinite PR

See you in Atlanta.

I use Twitter more to give shout outs to the good stuff being done by others than to broadcast about LexBlog and our doings.

I’ve always had a hard time believing I did something that qualified for bragging. Maybe that’s my Irish Catholic roots and my being an entrepreneur my whole life — nothing’s ever good enough and there’s no reason not to feel guilty.

Selfishly though, it just always felt good to make others feel good about what they’re doing. Lawyers, the organizations supporting access to legal services and the innovators bringing us the future of the law also need an attagirl or attaboy now and again. 

Turns out that sharing the good of others, rather than talking about my company and our products, is the most effective method of business development I have ever used.

Dale Carnegie, in one of the best-selling books of all time, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ laid out six business principles for making people like you – an essential he believe needed for business development.

Each of Carnegie’s points apply to how you as a lawyer can use Twitter to make people like you.

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people. “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.” The only way to make quality, lasting friendships is to learn to be genuinely interested in them and their interests.
  2. Smile. Happiness does not depend on outside circumstances, but rather on inward attitudes. Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful. Smile in everything that you do.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. “The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in the world put together.” People love their names so much that they will often donate large amounts of money just to have a building named after themselves. We can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering their name.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To be a good listener, we must actually care about what people have to say. Many times people don’t want an entertaining conversation partner; they just want someone who will listen to them.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. The royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated. We love to feel important and so does everyone else. People will talk to us for hours if we allow them to talk about themselves. If we can make people feel important in a sincere and appreciative way, then we will win all the friends we could ever dream of.

I use Feedly, a news aggregator, and Twitter lists in most of my use of Twitter. 

Feedly gives me news stories on subjects and from certain sources. Sharing the story, with an excerpt or quote from it, and also mentioning the person’s name (Twitter handle) by attributing the story/quote to them seems to work well. 

Twitter lists enable me to see what the people and organizations I’d like to know are sharing. By retweeting, with an excerpt from the underlying story shared or a kudos to the person or organization in the story – or to the party tweeting – seems to enable me to make friends.

With a decade or two under my belt, I’ve found generating business to be about friendships and people liking each other.

Unlike the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett, though, I never realized Dale Carnegie’s course could be the most valuable degree I could get. I’m learning.

What if there was legal news service, ala UPI, that syndicated legal news, information and commentary so that such news and commentary could be published by third-parties?

UPI (United Press International), founded in 1907, at its peak had more than 2,000 full-time employees, 200 news bureaus in 92 countries and more than 6,000 media subscribers, including newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. 

As a kid I thought it incredibly neat that our local daily small town newspaper could pull and publish UPI stories and photos from around the world, in what looked like instantaneous fashion. 

Most of us who are old enough think Walter Cronkite broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. Not so, Cronkite got the news from UPI.

The essence of UPI, as well as AP and Reuters is syndication. Collect the news in various formats (text, audio and video) and syndicate it to those in the news business. 

With the decline in the traditional news business, these news services are no longer what that they used to be.

The legal news and journalism business is also on the decline.

  • With declining ad and subscription revenues, it is near impossible for traditional legal publishers to retain top reporters and editors.
  • Open publishing is starting to impact the publishers of treatises, reviews and journals who have traditionally received articles and editorial work for free and sold subscriptions, including to those who wrote and edited the content. 
  • Law firms are paying third parties to distribute the content published by their lawyers, with the third party often taking the Google search and social networking influence of the content. 
  • Third party publishers are asking legal professionals to write for them – for free – and for the third party publisher to retain ownership of the content and its original domain on the net.

What’s killing traditional legal journalism even more is the importance of the individual citizen journalist and what that citizen journalist should own and control in today’s Internet world.

Legal journalism has been democratized. 

  • Legal professionals have a printing press in their hands via a WordPress platform on a desktop or mobile device.
  • Legal professionals are reporting on law blogs – thousands of blogs with tens of thousand of bloggers, over 22,000 bloggers on LexBlog alone.
  • Legal journalism is now created by those in the know – practicing lawyers, law professors, law students and other legal industry professionals, all of whom have first hand knowledge and experience in niche areas.
  • Legal professionals can own and control their journalism (content and domain) without handing it to third parties for publishing or distribution, resulting in loss of influence caused by not having their domain be viewed as the primary domain.

With all of these law blogs, why not have a “UPI” syndicating this legal news and commentary?

The content could be syndicated to subscribers licensing a “syndication portal” displaying the stories the subscriber saw as relevant. 

Subscribers could include associations, law firms and other organization who had a ready reason to license a “syndication portal,” whether it be for member relationships, brand building or otherwise. 

Content could also be syndicated in niche focused “magazines” comprised primarily of syndicated legal news and commentary.

Most important in such legal syndication is it being all about the individual law blogger, not the third party publisher as in days past. Blogger retains ownership and control, with the primary domain for growing and retaining search and social influence being the bloggers.

A hub for legal blogs with the accompanying technology for “syndication portals” could make legal news syndication a reality.