The Blawgosphere Is Alive (If you’re not too picky)

Few people have observed the blawgosphere as well as Colin Samuels.  He is the undisputed King of Blawg Review, and served as blawg sherpa, guiding others in their quest to avoid blawg review shame by comparison,   In the past year, Colin created a BR of his own, A Round Tuit, which is a Master’s Class in Blawg Review, for those willing to learn.

In his latest A Round Tuit, number 43 to be precise, Colin reflected on changes to the Blawgosphere over time.

Has the legal blogosphere become a “Happysphere” where criticism is considered unmannered and applause is expected for any contribution? In the years since I first posted here, the character of the space has certainly changed — many times, depending on how nuanced your analysis might be. In many ways, I think it’s fair to say that overall, the Happysphere ethos dominates.

With few exceptions, you can choose nearly any marketing-centric blog and find equal measures of warmed-over “next big thing” cheerleading from last week’s social media conference, effusive praise for other marketers, and quoting of other marketers’ effusive praise for oneself. Again with few exceptions, one is safe in dismissing these blogs outright — these add nothing meaningful or consequential to our discussion. Those few exceptional marketing-concerned blogs tend to be engaged in other areas of the legal blogosphere, so you needn’t be concerned about overlooking them if you steer a wide path around the marketeers.
You can almost hear the cries of “not me, not me,” from those whose blogs are marketing-centric but are desperately trying to maintain plausible deniability so that they can claim to be “real”.

Playing Lynyrd Skynyrd to Colin’s Southern Man, enter Bob Ambrogi.  Bob too can lay claim to keeping an eye on the blawgosphere over the years, having been co-writer of Legal Blog Watch for four years.  In a law tech news post at, Bob notes that in 2002, some unnamed person said that blawgs were dead.  Yet he writes:

But if what goes around comes around, I am now hearing murmurs that blogs are dead — or at least dying — within the legal profession.

The universe of blogs has become too crowded, too noisy, and too cluttered with spam to have any value, some say. Services such as Twitter and Facebook are easier, more direct and more personal, they contend.

So I come today to declare blogging alive, well and thriving within the legal profession. As evidence, I could refer you to any number of established blogs such as the one I already mentioned. But the future is foretold by what is new, so allow me to highlight some recently launched blogs, all of which show the continuing vitality of the medium.

Sweet home, Blawgosphere.  It’s always been my sense that Bob’s a very “official” guy, preferring serious blawgs as opposed to frivolous ones that tend to rant rather than bore.  That’s fine.  To each his own.  But Bob’s post then runs down a list of 15 new blogs to prove his point.

I randomly clicked on a few.  What I found was distressing.  No conversation.  No synergy.  Limited analysis and little effort.  But what struck me clearly between the eyes is that the ones I looked at could have been taken out of the social media marketer’s handbook.  Trying to look informative, these were created for the purpose of self-promotion, marketing.  These were, as Colin wrote about, marketing blogs.

It’s not that Bob’s position is necessarily wrong; they are new and they do contain posts with information.  They just aren’t part of any blawgosphere that I recognize or want to be involved with.  These could have been written by some paralegal at a law firm who was paid to spend a couple hours a week to craft a blog so that the law firms involved could say they were right there, on the bandwagon, with all the other cool law firms.  And this is what Ambrogi sees as a thriving blawgosphere.

Bob calls them “resources”, and that seems to be a fair description.  They contain information, and aren’t so flagrantly smarmy that you need to shower after reading them.  In some instances, the information isn’t half bad.  But there’s no engagement, and clearly none is sought.  These blogs are soliciting business, because they’ve been told that’s what blawgs are for.  If you notice, I won’t call them blawgs, a word I use to describe law blogs that seek to join the conversation within the legal blawging community.  To me they’re infomercials, standing alone and posting just enough to offer a passable appearance.

So is the blawgosphere alive and kicking, as Bob Ambrogi declares, or is it being crushed under the weight of self-promotion and marketing, as Colin Samuels says?  Who cares, as long as you hire me, right away, call now, operators are standing by, get two defenses for the price of one (only pay shipping and handling). 

12 thoughts on “The Blawgosphere Is Alive (If you’re not too picky)

  1. Keith Lee

    In my mind I divide up legal blogs into 4 categories:
    Student blogs
    Law Firm Blogs – decent, provide information, but are essentially press releases
    Legal Marketing / Social Media Blogs

    Unfortunately, the law firm & SM blogs seem to dominate the field at the moment.

    While it took me a bit to get my bearings, I’ve enjoyed my brief time in the online legal world. I can’t say whether or not the blawgosphere is thriving or dying, I’m not sure what the standard would be, but I will say I’ve been able to find interesting conversations on legal topics I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to – that’s enough for me. I just had to be willing to constantly explore new sites and have my bullshit detectors on high.

  2. Bob Ambrogi

    A quality blog and a marketing blog are not mutually exclusive concepts. As I did in my article, I’ll again point to SCOTUSblog as an example of this. The purpose of that blog is to promote the firm’s SCOTUS practice. But the value of the blog to readers is indisputable.

  3. nicole black

    I write about this all the time. It’s not dead, it’s changing–here’s a recent Daily Record article of mine on this very subject:

    [Ed. Note: Niki, Niki, Niki. You know I don’t allow links in comments, especially not links back to commenter’s posts.  Come on, don’t make me delete stuff.]

  4. nicole black

    By the way, SCOTUS blog has a full-time staff paid to run that blog. Last I heard–and this was back in ’07–the firm devoted at least $60K to paying people to run that blog.

    So, I’m pretty sure no blog can ever be a SCOTUS blog if it’s just a lawyer writing it in his/her spare time.

  5. nicole black

    Actually, no, I had no idea. I’m not exactly a frequent commenter here, Mr. Greenfield. [Ed. Note: I see a mere 81 comments from Niki. I thought she was a more frequent commenter.  My bad.]  Now, I do.

    However, anyone who is interested can click on my name above–that’s not a link in the comment, is it? ;)I mean, after all it’s entirely relevant to this discussion and quite frankly, I’m surprised (actually I’m really not) that it (along with my prior writings on this very topic) wasn’t referenced in the supposed “conversation” on this issue in the “blawgosphere”.

  6. SHG

    Normally, I wouldn’t allow this comment either.  I spend a lot of time every day deleting comments by folks trying to skim readers or backlinks by dropping their spam links here, and that’s why I adopted the no links in comments policey (which it says in the box on the sidebar).  But you’re special.

  7. SHG

    It would be foolish of me to piss off either of the Niki Black twins.  I’ve seen the fire in their eyes. (83, by the way)

  8. Litigation and Trial - Max Kennerly

    Jonathan Franzen Murdered The Legal Blogosphere!

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