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David Foley's Labor and Employment Law Blog

Friday, September 7, 2012

ABA Law Blog 100 and Ryan Holiday's Book

Today is the last day to make nominations to the ABA's top 100 law blog competition.  Coincidentally, I've been reading Ryan Holiday's book, Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media ManipulatorIn the book, Holiday lays out in pretty grim detail the dark-side of blogs and the ways the Internet has changed journalism for the worse.  Fortunately, in my own opinion, the legal blogosphere seems to be in a lot better shape than than the general blogosphere. This is primarily because the authors of legal blogs are lawyers whose income is tied to actual off-line legal practice rather than ads they sell on their blogs, and because as attorneys they are bound by ethics and have more of a sense of responsibility than the average blogger.  That being said, I don't think that our corner of the Internet is immune to the problems Holiday rightly shows are out there. 

Here are some of the things that are on my mind as I make my nominations to the ABA top 100:

According to Holiday,
The constraints of blogging create artificial content, which is made real and impacts the outcome of real world events....The economics of the Internet created a twisted set of incentives that make traffic more important-and more profitable-than the truth...Every blog, publisher, and oversharer in your Facebook feed is constantly looking to post things that will take on a life of their own and get attention, links, and new readers with the least work possible.  Whether the content is accurate, important, or helpful doesn't even register on their list or priorities...
 I don't think that the last sentence (or the paragraph) is true of the blogs I read.  One of the top priorities for legal bloggers is accuracy.  We are all wrong sometimes, but I think we strive to get it right and only write about issues that are important, helpful or (to build upon Holiday's list) entertaining.  Particularly, I look for helpful blogs.  However, as Holiday writes, being helpful is not the way to drive traffic:
For example: Movie reviews, in-depth tutorials, technical analysis, and recipes are typically popular with the initial audience and occasionally appear on the most e-mailed lists.  But they tend not to draw significant amounts of traffic from other websites.  They are less fun to share and spread less as a result.  This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it makes perfect sense according to the economics of online content.  Commentary on top of someone else's commentary or advice is cumbersome and often not very interesting to read.  Worse, the writer of the original material may have been so thorough as to have solved the problem or proffered a reasonable solution - two very big dampers on getting a heated debate going.
 For blogs, practical utility is often a liability....Being final, or authoritative, or helpful, or any of these obviously positive attributes is avoided, because they don't bait user engagement. And engaged users are where the money is.
 With that said, here are three of my nominations for the ABA's top 100 law blog competition:

Workplace Prof Blog. Very helpful original content and very helpful linking. It makes me feel smarter just to skim through it.

Work Matters (Michael Maslanka's blog). I am always amazed when Maslanka gives away some tactical advice like a technique in a deposition.  But as a young lawyer, I love those tidbits.  Besides the tactical, Maslanka has a good bit of technical content and great content on the "counseling" side of the profession; i.e. wisdom.

BNA Daily Labor Report. I don't know if the BNA would like to be categorized as a blog, but according to Ryan Holiday, everything is a blog.  The fact that it is a paid subscription model keeps it a step ahead of any web-source out there.  The BNA does not try to drive traffic, it tries to produce a service and it works.  Accurate, important, helpful. I don't know about a lot of the things they report on, but if I skim through it, I have a better chance of sounding smart when someone wants to talk about ESOPs.

Click here to submit your nomination ABA's top 100 law blog competition.

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