The Changing Media Landscape: Opportunity for Lawyers and Law Firms?

I’ve been holding on to last week’s “The Media Equation” column by David Carr in the The New York Times: The Fall and Rise of Media – worth a read if you haven’t yet seen to it.

Like many of us in the Digital Age, I usually do the equivalent of clip a piece like this one: tweet the link, share it on Facebook, bookmark it on delicious or digg. Then I’m done; on to the next article, the next post, the next nugget of information.

But for the past week this particular article has lingered on my desktop in an open browser, not ready to be archived.

On one level, it is personal: I am the son of an old-school, print media journalist – a South African journalist who happened to chronicle life in that country during some of its most turbulent years (1960s to ’90s). I will forever remember (and miss) the typewriter sounds of a busy newsroom, and the smell of ink and paper and hot metal as important news went to print.

Yet, there is optimism in Carr’s piece about the changing media landscape. (“…cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more
than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve
as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than
entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago.”)

A few standout statements from The Fall and Rise of Media:

“…the supply of both editorial and advertising content more or less doubles every year.

“…on the Web, pretty good — or even not terrible — is often good enough.”

“Certain stalwart brands will survive and even thrive because of a new scarcity of quality content for niche audiences that demand more than generic information.”

Especially the last half at that last sentence:

…a new scarcity of quality content for niche audiences that demand more than generic information.

When you overlook the carnage that is the decline of traditional media (“if you ignore all the collateral gore”), you see opportunity.

This includes opportunity for lawyers and law firms – who are without question terrific sources of expertise (and that missing quality content) at a time when the best you can say about most user-generated content (the golden child of new media) is: “pretty good — or even not terrible — is often good enough.”  

I am unsure how many lawyers and law firms understand their place in this changing landscape – and see the opportunity available to them.

Quality Content for Niche Audiences

Our efforts at JD Supra have always been informed by the understanding that lawyers are prolific generators of top-quality written work; our job is, among other things, to place that work in front of the niche audience(s) who want to read it.

Your expertise – covering every endeavor, every profession and industry, showcased in the form of client alerts, articles, newsletters, blog posts, court documents (incl. favorable decisions) – holds wide interest among numerous people. Business owners, managers, consumers, parents, employees, musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, patients, homebuyers, landlords, tenants, scientists, manufacturers, immigrants, and on and on and on.

 So what does the changing media landscape mean for lawyers and law firms? Simply this: participate.

Participate in the new media landscape. In the words of Jordan Furlong (repeated here by me, frequently): think like an editor.

Start posting your analysis, commentary, news alerts and other legal content online. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, JD Supra, even YouTube: these are your tools. An audience is waiting. 

What you bring to your “niche” (read:” target”) audience can help fill a void currently filled, in no small way, by content that is either “pretty good” or, more likely, “not terrible.”

Lawyers and law firms can do better than that.