Blogging is still with us, writes Dave Winer, who gave rise to blogging over two decades ago.

Winer points that long time blogger, author and journalism professor, Jeff Jarvis went on CNN today to talk about Australia’s clamping down on social media’s use of news publishers’ content, among other things.

Jarvis is going on with CNN’s Brian Stelter, a former New York Times’ reporter, who got his start in journalism via blogging.

While traditional journalism seems to think blogging is over, per Winer, the evidence is to the contrary. “Blogging reshaped the world. Not only for good, of course.”

Journalism may look at the world as Facebook, and blogging, getting what these platforms have for news, sharing and commentary from traditional news journalism.

The flow can, and does go the other way. Blogs can be the source, as Winer has written many times.

So can social media. I’m on NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams because I am reporting on Twitter and Facebook about midnight vaccines in Seattle because of freezer failure.

Rather than blogging’s genes still being in circulation, as Winer puts it. In the law, I see legal blogs in their infancy. Not just in the States, but worldwide.

Talking with seven lawyers getting ready to blog on a niche, this morning, there was a genuine interest in blogging the right way.

They weren’t chasing SEO, like some law firms. They were looking to offer insight and commentary to the public, to traditional news journalists (who cannot cover the niche), to other bloggers and their clients.

Blogging for them democratized legal journalism. Not only did blogging diversify who was reporting and providing commentary – expanded beyond traditional journalism and the legal publishing giants, but blogging diversified legal publishing to six women who, historically, fell in a group not been given the reigns to run to prominence.

Achieving career heights, being one of the only publishers in a niche, earning significantly more, contributing to secondary law and the sheer fun that comes from being part of journalism while practicing law, will keep legal blogging on the rise, not in the vestiges. 🙂

I am doing a rough survey of international law blogs to assess what’s out there in legal blogs outside the United States. I am just scratching the surface.

My quick take is that legal blogging represents a powerful form of legal publishing, internationally. By country, by the position of the publisher/blogger and by area of the law.

Here’s some early observations as to the blogs:

  • Blogs appear to be more scholarly in nature than in the States
  • Blogs are collegial in nature with an openness towards advancing the law versus demonstrating the expertise of publishers/contributors
  • Blogs are not taking on the form of content marketing, written by hired guns, for search engine performance, their focus is true information and commentary on the law from authorities
  • Blogs can have a large number of contributors, even up to a 100
  • Blogs actively solicit contributions from authorities not associated with the publisher organization
  • Blogs are highly prevalent among law schools
  • I have not searched specific countries, but blogs appear to be worldwide
  • Many list other relevant blogs, making it a point to provide/aggregate the best legal blogs on the subject/locale

From a legal publishing and business opportunity, international legal blogs represent an opportunity that could well exceed the opportunity in the United States. I have yet to look by country, area of the law, associations, law firm etc.

By legal publishing opportunity I am referencing the aggregation/listing of all of the blogs, with the relevant meta-data, and curating the blogs/contributors/publishers for users in various ways. Much the way LexBlog is currently doing so and will do so in the future.

The business model comes from the licensing of LexBlog’s blog publishing solutions. Though not as direct as the aggregation and curation, relationships are at the heart of business development. By providing greater visibility, via LexBlog and elsewhere, we have the opportunity to help contributors and their publishers.

Perhaps most importantly, we’ll be providing greater access to the law, legal information and legal insight (via blogs) to consumers, businesses, legal professionals, academics, students and the courts.

Not just from what currently exists in legal blogs, but from the legal blogging that will ensue by shining a light on the good work that is being done today.

Aggregating and curating international legal blogs is not a short term project.

It will take years, an understanding of international cultural and legal issues, partnerships, working across multiple languages and, I am sure, much more.

From Ariana Pekary in the Columbia Journalism Review,

IF YOU HAVE EVER SEEN ALL THE CABLE NEWS NETWORKS on screens next to each other—at the gym, for example—you’ll have noticed something strange: they all cover the same stories as each other, every day. 

Given that these are separate and competing news organizations, and certainly don’t coordinate with each other, this can be hard to explain. Some topics—such as impeachment, especially on the day of the senate trial—are obvious; others, however, are not. 

Such uniformity devalues the news; provides toxic voices with blanket coverage; and burns out and frustrates journalists, who feel in their bones that sprinting after the same story as everyone else is a fundamentally pointless activity.

Law blogs, traditional legal news and legal scholarship tend to cover the same thing. Different words. Different publishers. But the same news and the same commentary.

A real opportunity for legal bloggers lies in getting outside the same.

Cover a niche that is not already being covered in the country, in your state or your state.

Your blog will be must have reading for lawyers and lay people with an interest on the subject. Your blog will be found in search and in social as the only coverage in your niche, and the topics on the subject.

Unlike the cable news networks, you don’t have to get on a cable, satellite or Internet network to get your blog on the air, distributed and to get seen.

Publish a niche blog and get outside the same.

The LinkedIn Legal Blogging Group will begin hosting weekly discussions to help and empower legal professionals with an interest in blogging.

We’ll begin this Friday at 11 AM PT where I’ll lead a discussion on legal blogging basics. Registration is here and is open to group members and others.

We’ll continue the following week where I’ll lead a discussion on the use of social media in legal blogging.

This group includes members from around the world. We’ll start to have programs in the evening for our members in India and other countries where that would be more convient.

I have no illusions that the discussion willl be vibrant when we start. I may present information for much of the time. As the weeks go by, I hope to have some of the discussion shape the topic for the following weeks.

Thanks.

Hearing what Apple CEO, Tim Cook had to say in a recent speech in Brussels marking International Data Privacy Day has me rethinking the delivery of journalism via algorithms – particularly legal journalism, which is primarily blogging today.

Too many are still asking the question, ‘How much can we get away with?’ When they need to be asking, ‘What are the consequences?’

What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?

What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?

What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?

It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cause. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.”

A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe.”

Speech and content on the Internet has been growing geometrically over the last couple decades.

First we had the democratization of publishing with blogging, WordPress and countless other publishing platforms.

Then we had social media which grave rise to commentary on other’s publishing, in addition to short form publishing itself on the social media platforms.

In the law, legal news and commentary, via legal blogging has exploded.

Publishing has been democratized, enabling legal professionals not previously allowed through the gates of traditional publisher to publish on their own.

Tens of thousands of lawyers are publishing on niches never covered by traditional legal publishers.

The legal profession and the public are already relying on search engines and algorithmic driven e-discovery and AI tools to find and discover items of relevance from legal publishing.

I use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all algorithmic-driven, to receive legal industry publishing

I am attracted by the ability of these platforms to drive to me items of value – personally and professionally. Because I use these platforms liberally, I don’t see the junk that others do.

But I am impressed by the quality of news and information some close friends receive from Apple News, self described as world class journalism. World class because of the use of editors, at least in part, to curate the delivery of news and commentary from hundreds of newspapers and magazines.

When it comes to legal blogs, I have always thought that algorithms would be needed at some point. How could we curate the volume of legal blog posts each day. Posts from around the world from thousands of lawyers.

Algorithms can even be more reliable than editors, even lawyers, who cannot match the expertise of niche focused blogging lawyers.

Signals as to what is being read, commented on, liked, cited and engaged – and by whom can tell publishers using algorithms what is likely strong legal news and commentary.

But law – even secondary law and commentary in the form of blogs is important, especially because it drives opinion and discussion on societal issues and influences judicial and legislative decision making.

Important enough that editors will play at least some role in the curation and delivery of legal blogging.

PS – I just resubscribed to Apple News to get a taste for editorial – at least in part – driven news.

The idea that a private company would decide what is free speech and what is not protected free speech under the United States Constitution seems pretty far fetched.

But that’s in effect happening with Twitter banning President Trump and his like minded cohorts from their social media platform.

From Twitter on January 8:

After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence

In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. 

However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.

It’s easy for some to dismiss Twitter as just a social media platform, it doesn’t control speech. In addition, Twitter’s a private company, they can decide what’s tolterated on their platform per their terms of service.

But Twitter is in essence a town square for public discussion, commentary and information/news dissemination. Where do go after Twitter if you want to be heard? We haven’t heard much from Mr. Trump of late.

Shouting fire in a crowded theater is a paraphrase of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his analogy for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating panic in the US Supreme Court case of Schreck v US.

The case was later partially overturned by Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969, which limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action, a riot.

A pretty strong case can be made that President Trump’s speech was likely to incite imminent lawless action, or a riot. A riot that killed five and threatened much worse.

That’s not the point. What President Trump did was awful.

The point is that growth of social media in the last ten years has handed Jack and his team at Twitter the bench to decide what is free speech or unprotected speech.

With Congress pressuring social media companies to further police expression on their platforms, we may have private companies further policing free speech in this country.

I totally get that we have a problem with people inciting riots and worse via social media.

I just have to believe Justice Holmes would be mighty surprised that 102 years after the Supreme Court decided the limits of free speach in his decision that the country has deferred to Twitter to decide such things.

Looking to keep up with other social media companies that enable publishers to earn money from their followers and and the growing popularity of newsletters, Twitter announced today that it acquired an email newsletter services Revue.

https://twitter.com/revue/status/1354036531208577024?s=21

Spending in advertising has plummeted of recent, in in large part because of the pandemic. Publishers with good followings looking for new sources of revenue to stay afloat are finding it in paid subscriptions.

Some elite publishers using the larger email publishing platform, Substack, which allows for paid subscribers, are replacing their ad revenue, altogether, with subscriptions.

The New York Times’ Kate Conger, reporting on the Revue acquisition, shares that late last year Twitter was even considering the purchase of Substack.

Revue, based in the Netherlands, has six employees and plans to operate independent of Twitter for now.

Should blogging lawyers or lawyers, in general, look to platforms such as Revue or Substack as a source of revenue for the commentary and information they are sharing?

Not really, unless you have already achieved rockstar status in publishing or otherwise.

David Lat, the founder of Above the Law and now publishing a new email publication is an example of such a rockstar for which paid subscriptions may be possible.

As a lawyer, you already have a revenue stream from publishing. Getting paid for legal services you render will generate far more for you than email subscription revenue will.

Focus on the strategic publishing of your niche blog, with the ancillary use of social media, to build a name and relationships. It’ll take time to master the skill, but it’ll pay better than learning how to grow subscription revenue.

Lawyers should also always look at the business model of the service or platform they are going to use,.

For Revue and Substack, it’s generating money through subscriptions for email publishers. That’s where these publishing platforms are focusing their development work.

Such a model is not directed towards lawyers getting work by word of mouth and relationships. The platforms’ evolution and feature development will focus on helping users with other goals.

Could there be something of value to publishing lawyers coming from Revue? It’s possible when you read between the lines of what Twitter shared in a blog post, reported on by Conger.

“Twitter is uniquely positioned to help organizations and writers grow their readership faster and at a much larger scale than anywhere else,” Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s head of product, said in a blog post announcing the deal. “Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers, while also helping readers better discover writers and their content.”

The biggest story in all of this, for now, may be get five smart and hard working friends who are willing to work for almost nothing, work your tails off on a hot niche and make enough of a splash to get acquired by a multi-billion dollar tech company in San Francisco.

Marketer and author, Seth Godin, writes, this morning, about your big idea and why it’s definitely worth pursuing.

It’s probably not completely original.

It’s probably not breathtaking in scope.

It’s probably not immediately popular.

But… it’s definitely worth pursuing, consistently and persistently for years and years.

If you care. If it’s generous and helpful and worth the journey.

All the big ideas that made a difference follow this pattern.

Resonates with me. I’ve chased ideas before, and I’m chasing a new one.

Always out of care, generosity and the desire to help people.

Focusing on the more people we can help opposed to how much money we can make is scary, but works.

I put up a forty by eighty inch map of the world on the wall off my office this week.

The purpose being to track the progress of LexBlog’s goal of a worldwide legal blogging community.

Every legal blog and legal blogger in the world reflected in one place, syndicated to partner publications and included in legal research and AI platforms.

Not necessarily breathtaking. We can find every blogger, contact them and get their permission for inclusion and syndication.

If it takes years, that’s okay.

LexBog had seven customer legal blogs after one year and about sixty after two years. Blogs were not immediately popular.

We’re building the community because we care about lawyers and the people they serve.

We’re looking to making legal services more accessible by making lawyers more relevant, more trusted and more authentic.

Maybe, like Godin says, a big idea that makes a difference.

Opening Facebook just now, the first two posts were from friends facing down cancer.

One a face to face friend, whose partner is suffering from the residuals of cancer treatment.

Chemotherapy is hard enough, alone, let alone dealing with the conditions that develop from the chemo and the drugs used to treat both the chemo and the residual conditions.

Not minor side effects, we’re talking life threatening side effects that land one in the hospital. The CCU and ICU.

That’s the case with the second post, this from a facebook friend, who I met and got to know through Facebook as she’s a widely known veteran journalist.

Hospital for the holidays keeping hope alive. I know it very well from Jill’s cancer fight which landed her in the hospital at this time last year.

I imagine this friend in her hospital bed, iPhone or iPad in hand, updating us all, as she regularly does.

An update to those who care. A post to “engage” when you most need to feel you’re “engaging.” I certainly felt the need last year.

Nothing updates and engages like Facebook. You’re not going to call and write letters to everyone.

More people use Facebook than anything else online.

Facebook’s algorithms get what you post to those would receive the most value from your post. How else would I see friends sharing posts on cancer and the holidays?

Having lost Jill to cancer, I want to help others where I can. Maybe it’s sharing our story so others can learn how to face cancer and how to help their friends and loved ones who are cancer patients.

I also want to offer support to those suffering from cancer, especially now at Christmas.

Facebook, like no other medium, gives me the opportunity to do this.

Facebook is taking a beating in the media.

It’s become popular for folks to brag that they do not use Facebook. Your loss.

For me, Zuck has brought us all a little closer and given us the opportunity to help more people.

I am finding that to be a very good thing – especially when it comes to fighting cancer at Christmas.

Victoria Hudgins penned a piece at Law.com earlier this week that the hard truth behind the ROSS shutdown is that legal tech is cash poor.

Investors and software providers informed Hudgins that other legal tech companies were equally cash poor and could easily meet a similar fate.

There’s nothing particularly newsworthy or unique about any tech startup being cash poor, let alone legal tech startups.

Cash is king in any startup, even in a venture capital funded one. You’re watching cash more closely than growing revenue.

In many cases a valuation driven venture capitalist will want you spending the cash quickly – to increase the valuation for another funding round or for an acquisition.

A startup, especially a venture capital funded one, is not a company saving for a rainy day.

Nor is it a company for the faint of art. How to spend the cash and where to cutback can change in a minute. And when you don’t control the board, which VC funded founders do not, these decisions may not be all yours.

You may may be told on a Tuesday afternoon that a 20% reduction in overhead is required rather than getting the next traunch of funding, as previously promised.

Knowing that sort of reduction requires massive layoffs of friends, you ask by when. You’re told, “Friday.”

When it comes time for bridge funding before a sale or the next round of funding, the founders are taken off the payroll. That’s assuming founders were even on the payroll to start with.

Taken off the payroll means putting every expense for a family with five kids on a credit card.

You’ve never lived until you’re hoping against hope that your credit card still has something on it when you’re at the check out line at the grocery store with a cart filled for a family of seven – or you’ve called your wife and asked her to move the car down to the ferry parking lot so it wouldn’t be repossessed by GMAC Financing. (God Bless you, Jill)

Cash is tight in most every tech startup, including legal tech startups. That’s okay, the living on the edge drives innovation and attracts more innovators to your company – even customers who, believe it or not, like a little of the “Wild Wild West.”

ROSS got thrown a big curveball. They got sued by the largest legal publisher in the world.

I can’t imagine too many venture capitalists, current ROSS funders or new ones, who would be willing to fund the defense of a law suit by a Goliath, possibly trying to turn legal tech innovation back in time.

The suit could put the company at risk and certainly use up a ton of cash needed for development, marketing and sales. Enough said for VC’s.

Legal tech startups are going to continue to blossom. Innovation, technology, access to legal services, efficiencies, and improved flow of legal information are much more likely to come from startups than larger companies.

Some legal tech startups will succeed, some will struggle, some will sell to large companies and private equity concerns and some will flourish for years on their own.

No matter the case, legal tech startups, especially in the early years, are going to be cash poor.

Bottom line, a big kudos to legal tech founders who got outside their comfort zone to do what others would not.