Monday, August 24, 2009

The Life Expectancy Of A Legal Blog

Whenever we start thinking about blogging, rather than about drug and device law, Bexis gets spooked.

So this post was written by Herrmann alone, ruminating about the life expectancy of a newborn legal blog.

What prompted the rumination?

The professors who previously manned the Product Liability Prof Blog and the Civil Procedure Prof Blog have apparently given up the ships. As of last week, the Law Profs Blog Network was soliciting new professors (here and here) to take over the reins of those two blogs.

Even the academics can't do it! The professors can't feed their blogs; it's too much work.

And those guys spend their lives wearing tweed jackets, smoking pipes, and thinking great thoughts!

So today's question was this: How long does the average practitioner-blogger last?

We don't have a clue.

But that won't stop us. To answer our question, we thought about two things:

First, we reflected on our neck of the woods. A while back, we thought that the Medical Devices: Law, Trends, and Oddities Blog was okay. We weren't hanging on every word that was published there, but we thought it was worth watching. So how long did it last?

We welcomed that entry into the blogosphere in December 2007, and the last post we could find reported on Warner-Lambert v. Kent in March 2008. Four months and out.

More recently, we thought Russell Jackson did a spectacularly nice job at his Consumer Class Actions and Mass Torts Blog. He picked his topics intelligently, wrote them up with flair, and contributed to worthwhile discussions on the web. And this was a guy who had written a column for the National Law Journal for a while, so he knows how to crank out the words.

How long did he last?

He started his blog in January 2009 and hung up his cleats in April 2009. Four months.

That's our neck of the woods.

In addition to thinking about the drug and device space, we tried to think about legal blogs more generally.

We can just barely spell "empirics." We don't have a clue how to analyze empirically the lifespan of an average newborn legal blog (although that would be a fascinating project for the right person).

But we're masters of down-and-dirty research.

So, instead of hard information that you can count on, we'll give you a tiny little, unscientific survey.

We went over to "Real Lawyers Have Blogs," which is manned by Kevin O'Keefe, who both sells a legal blogging platform and (perhaps not surprisingly) thinks that legal blogs are God's gift to lawyers. We went to Kevin's blogroll on August 18, and we looked at the last six blogs on the first page of listings. Those links were titled: Arizona Injury and Insurance Lawyer, Arizona Family Law Lawyer, Arizona Eminent Domain Lawyer, Arizona DUI Lawyer, Antitrust Lawyers, and Angiosarcoma Lawyer. (Now you see why we weren't going all the way to "Z.")

We checked to see whether those six, randomly selected, blogs were still active.

Half of them were.

As of late August 2009, the Arizona Injury Lawyer had last posted on October 13, 2008. That blog's dead.

The Arizona Divorce and Family Law Blog had last posted on June 19, 2009. That's a mighty long summer vacation; we're calling it dead.

The Arizona Eminent Domain Lawyer had last posted on March 31, 2009. That's Spring Break stretching into Summer Vacation. Nice lifestyle, if you can pull it off, but the blog is toast.

The Arizona DUI Lawyer had last posted on July 30, 2009. That's a fairly long gap between posts, but the blog may still be active.

And the Antitrust Law Blog and Angiosarcoma Lawyer had both posted within the last week, so they're still breathing.

What's our conclusion?

Legal blogs are like small businesses: Half of 'em fail in the first year, and 90 percent of 'em fail in the next five.

Maybe that's a little precise, given that we didn't actually do any empirical analysis. But you get our drift. Legal blogs don't last.

They require a ton of work; they gather readership only slowly over time; and they're not the gold mine of new business that blogolaters say they are.

(Can you claim a copyright interest in a word? If so, we want blogolater. We just invented it, and we kind of like it. Can it be ours?)

In fact, as we slog toward the third -- Egad! It hurts even to type those words! -- anniversary of the Drug and Device Law Blog, we're thinking of trading blogging for lexicography.

It would surely be easier. It would probably be more rewarding.

And, Lord knows, the two of us are harmless drudges.

7 comments:

Soronel Haetir said...

It can not help the Law Professors' Blog Network that for the vast majority of their offerings even when a link from somewhere else is obtained nobody comments. Many of the LPBN offerings also suffer for being pure regurgitation without a shred of editorial comment about the subject.

Would you be so eager to keep up your efforts if you kept posting yet never got any sort of response? You get the occasional comment, and obviously far more private e-mail about your blogging work. The one LPBN blog I follow has an active (and rather cantankerous) small group of regular commenters. Even there the experience is hurt by poor software design, the system is limited to showing 25 comments maximum, yet will allow new comments to be entered after reaching that limit and add them to the comment count, just not display them.

Lynne DeVenny said...

Maybe they should call it "slogging" intead of "blogging". Seriously, do it because you love it, because maintaining a legal blog doesn't lead to fame and fortune - except for a favored few. Plus, it takes time and hard work to grow a readership, and in the meantime, a blogger can feel a bit lonely (and commentless)! Thanks for this post, tho' - it's both discouraging and inspiring for those of us who continue to hang in there despite the odds.

Venkat said...

Love it when you guys blog about blogging.

Tom Mighell said...

(Posting again, because I'm not sure the first one went through)

Mark, I'm glad you admit your opinions here aren't empirically sound; after all, looking at only *seven* law blogs out of more than 2,500 that have been created since 2000 sure isn't enough for a statistical sample.

I happen to be a bit of a freak for law blogs and statistics. On my blog Inter Alia (www.inter-alia.net) I've been featuring the newest law-related blogs since 2003 - and tracking all of those blogs on what is now a pretty long spreadsheet. As of now, more than 2,300 law blogs.

I did some number crunching on them over this summer, and was surprised by my findings - that just over 48% of those 2,300+ blogs were still active - "active" getting a very liberal definition of "last post within the past 60 days." Calling a blog "dead" is tough, because lots of blogs come back and start posting regularly after having gone dormant for a few months.

Further, of the blogs I've been tracking with "birth dates and "death dates," the average life of a law blog is much longer than you think - over one year, ten months.

Finally, the stats show that the longest-lasting blogs are the ones that came along earliest - the percentage of law bloggers who started between 2000-2004 and are still blogging is much higher than those law blogs that have come along since then.

While I think your general thought about why law blogs die is correct - that blogs are hard to maintain, and lawyers are busy people - I think the comment "law blogs don't last" doesn't give enough credit to the 1,100+ law bloggers (plus a lot I'm not tracking) who are still soldiering on in the blog trenches.

(FYI - Dennis Kennedy and I talked about this on a recent podcast [http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/kennedy-mighell-report/2009/08/the-state-of-the-blawgosphere/]- we'll also be publishing these stats in a more public way in the next month.)

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

FWIW, my eclectic blog, with a heavy dose of legal topics, is still at it after four years and more than 4,000 posts (in addition to about 800 posts elsewhere).

The shortest lived blogs are those whose main aim is business development. You have to blog because you have something you want to say.

attorneydavid said...

Well I think most people doing the law marketing thing misunderstand why most practitioners blog. Its locality based keyword targeting. For example I have www.memphisdivorceblog.com . I originally posted on it fairly regularly for about 9 months. Afterwards I stopped but it still got decent traffic. Who needs a readership? The people who want Memphis Divorce have an immediate time based need and probably aren't fans who want the latest updates. If I put up multiple websites I'd just look silly blogs allow you to target locality based keywords without looking like the total ho I am.

San Diego DUI Lawyer said...

This is so true. Ive been doing this for years and have seen legal blogs go up and down at astonishing rates, unreal. Good read.