Note: Yikes! One of the dangers of announcing a “by request day” is getting unexpectedly busy with work and then having my blogging friends taunt me about “where are the by request posts?” I may have to answer the requests over the next few days.
I kind of expected this question. I was out-of-town when Matt Homann posted about Law.com ending his run on the Law.com blog advertising network (a great post, done with humor, insight, and, dare I say, graciousness) and haven’t had the chance to post about it in a thoughtful way before now.
As you know, Matt is both a friend and my partner in LexThink, so it should not surprise you that I come down squarely on Matt’s side in this one.
First of all, I was surprised that any publishing/media company would take any action that was within even a hundred miles of opening itself to the possibility of criticism that it was basing its decisions on continuing membership in the network on the content of what a blogger was writing or that it might be somehow being punishing Matt for what he said or didn’t say. I’m willing to take at face value that Law.com was going in a different direction with its network, that Matt’s blog no longer fit that direction, and that nothing more was happening. However, I know a few people who have privately raised some questions and some eyebrows.
By way of disclosure, I was approached by Law.com to join this blog network very early on and was intrigued by the idea. As it turned out, for some of the same reasons that you don’t often see my articles appearing in American Lawyer Media publications or on Law.com, we simply could not come to terms on the basic contract. From my point of view, there were some deal-breakers and we quickly decided that it simply wouldn’t work out. I can be a real pain in the ass when negotiating on the rights I want to retain in what I write.
We parted on amicable terms – I liked the idea of the network and I suggested other bloggers who I thought might be good candidates for the Law.com network.
Out of that process, I formed a very high opinion of Lisa Stone, who was putting the blog network together, and would be willing to work with her on another project in a heartbeat. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with the comments Matt made about Lisa in his goodbye post.
Because legal bloggers are looking to “monetize” their blogging efforts, there has always been a lot of interest in the Law.com blog network. For some of the long-time bloggers, however, neither the business model nor the contractual arrangements of the Law.com blog network really work.
However, if you get any group of legal bloggers together, I can almost guarantee that the Law.com blog network will come up as a topic of the conversation in which people are genuinely interested. In every one of these discussions, people will mention several ways that they think that Law.com could improve the network. There is also speculation about when the competitor legal blog networks will develop and what they might look like.
I will always point favorably to Law.com as a first mover and a pioneer in recognizing what was happening in the world of blogs and seeking to create an arrangement that might mutually benefit Law.com and legal bloggers. Bringing in Lisa Stone to put the network together was a brilliant move.
That said, I do have some concerns about what happened with Matt.
If I had been part of the Law.com blog network and Matt would have been let go in the way he was, I would have resigned, noisily, right then and there. That’s me – I’m the theatrical kind. I’m not being critical of the other bloggers in the network, because everyone makes their decisions on their own facts and circumstances, but I am surprised at how little mention I can find about Matt’s departure by the other bloggers (I was a little lazy in my search, but presumably it would have shown up highly in Google).
Hey, it took me a month to write anything, so I’m no role model, but it does raise the question whether Matt’s exit, and the perceived reasons for it, had some kind of “chilling effect” on bloggers in the network. I’d point to Lisa Stone’s post as a good way to handle the matter.
I’m now going to be curious and wonder whether anyone else who leaves the network at this time was asked to leave.
Given Matt’s personal popularity and the wide respect he has among legal bloggers, I suspect that it will become difficult for Law.com to attract high-profile legal bloggers to its network. That will also open the door wider to potential competitor legal blog advertising networks. Competition is a good thing! I’d be happy to hear from anyone putting together a competitor network, as I ‘m sure Matt and other non-Law.com bloggers would be.
Matt’s situation also raises a question (and again I’m surprised that this question arises in the context of an arrangement involving a media/publishing business) about what is really expected in terms of content and editorial control when a blogger joins a blogging network, takes sponsorships or otherwise attempts to “monetize” a blog. I believe from now on lawyer bloggers will want to see guarantees that they can write what they want on their blogs. This issue is becoming more important as many legal bloggers, and Matt is just one example, are using their blogs to talk about a variety of topics that may not be considered “law-related” by some.
I honestly don’t know every little detail in Matt’s situation, but, for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ll accept his version on his blog as the truth for purposes of answering this question. I simply raise some questions, not criticisms, that struck me (and others I have talked with) when I read Matt’s post. My best guess is that while Law.com helped legal bloggers take an important first step toward monetizing their blogs, the second and following important steps will be taken by others.
Just my two cents on a $64 question of the day.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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