Saturday, January 13, 2007

Citizen Legal Journalism & Online Credibility

Kevin O'Keefe's got an intriguing thought going on. The mass content (blogs, photos, video) created for an event like CES, has Kevin thinking that legal news coverage is about to be turned on end. I can't disagree.

Here's what he's suggesting:
"It's also going to be the future of legal coverage. Not only as to discourse on substantive law but also in coverage of trials and the like. Practicing lawyers, law professors, law students, and 'citizen legal journalists' will be creating tremendously valuable media and data."I'd also like to add, it's not going to be a matter of Lawyers ditching their day jobs to do this. But rather, an approach adjustment, made by those individuals who 'get' this new mode of profile marketing. If you truly are (or want to be) a 'thought leader' within your expertise or discipline, why wouldn't you toss your commentary out to blogosphere? Your peers will pick it up, and so will the media. We've seen this much already.

With this rush of online commentary, good journalists are learning to sift through, and to pick out the quality authoritative sources. There's no reason to believe that Lawyers won't still have as substantial a presence as they traditionally have. But let's face it, there's going to be competition to stand out -- this is the attention economy, after all. Having a trusted voice and online credibility is going to matter.

In the offline world, credibility is created via a number of avenues: work history & success, peer groups, publishing history, academics, and association involvement; to name a few. In the online world, we take all this into account, but add an extra layer: credibility is gauged by your linked associations & relationships. Let me explain. It's not enough to 'say' that you're a member of some Association. The Google's & Technorati's of the world need you to demonstrate that relationship formally via a link from that Association's website to yours. The blogosphere is no different. If you want to be read, you must have a trusted network of peers willing to link you up. When you say something worthy they'll repeat it, and when you mess up they'll call you on it. Think of it as open source peer review, anyone can play. :-)

And how does one go about building this online credibility? My advice would be two fold. First, you must write engaging commentary. No one wants to link to a website that's unprofessional in tone, or poorly done. The second, and important part, is to embrace the social side of this technology: blogrolls, comments, trackbacks, linking within your community or blogging genre, and collaborative projects, to name a few.

So I agree with Kevin, once 'citizen legal journalism' gets going, Lawyers will be providing commentary on a huge range of topics. I can definitely see, especially with the influx of new law blogs and legal portals coming online, how valuable a marketing tool the legal blogoshpere is set to become. Right now getting on the radar is relatively easy, but add in 5k, 10k or 25k more blogs, and online credibility is definitely going to be a key factor for success.


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