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News & Publications >> Articles >> Write. Share. Get Noticed.

Write. Share. Get Noticed.

By Adam L. Stock in National Law Journal, Co-Author

"I have nothing to declare but my genius."
Oscar Wilde to a U.S. customs agent upon entering the United States, 1882

There are more than 267 billion Web sites today (Netcraft – December 2010 ) and more than 294 billion e-mails sent each day (Radicati Group – April 2010 ). The problem, of course, is that people need to consume this information — and they can't be forced to consume information any faster than they did in the past.

We can expect the number of e-mails and Web sites, like all processes that to which technology is applied, to continue to grow. Not only because publishing is easier, but also because it is so much cheaper. The cost of distributing information has fallen to nearly zero. For example, the cost of sending out a direct mail message through the U.S. mail — the most prevalent form of marketing three decades ago — was typically more than $1.00 per piece. The cost of sending out that same message digitally today, through email today is less than $0.01.

Publications have always served the purpose of connecting authors (people with interesting information) with audiences (people who want that information). They have served the positive purposes of curating content: maintaining both the quality and focus of content for their audiences. They have also served the negative purposes of censorship: limiting content because it did not fit their editorial or political agenda, or because they perceived the content to be too "niche" and therefore economically undesirable. As A.J. Liebling so wisely proclaimed, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

Because everybody now has the ability to publish and the cost to send content is now so much lower, many firms and marketers make the mistake of mass producing poor-quality content and blasting it to their entire e-mail network (not all that different from spam.) This is ill advised, because even though the cost of producing content has dramatically decreased, the demands on the time of potential clients and readers of your content have dramatically increased. Now more than ever you need quality writing to get attention.

There is now full democracy of content. There is no more censorship. Now anyone can publish anything — and they do. Furthermore, they can send it to you — and they do. Your e-mail spam folder is proof of that! The positive aspect to this is that you can find information on almost any topic, because no matter how small an audience there is for that information, it is now economically feasible to publish that information. It is what Chris Anderson called the removal of "distribution friction" in his influential book, The Long Tail.

To deal with the glut of unwanted information there are a number of filtering technologies that have been developed — these include e-mail spam filters, phishing filters and porn blockers. The problem is that these filters catch only the most egregious and malicious messages and Web sites. We are so inundated with information that we now want to get it only from sources that we trust: our friends and our networks.

The sharing of media through social networks (sometimes called social media) functions as a curating process. Social media are a positive filtering mechanism due to the simple fact that good information get shared, junk gets ignored. Score one for the humans in the battle of the bots versus the humans. Note that the subjective decision about whether something is relevant is determined by the other people in your social networks rather than by a particular publisher. Online publishers are very aware of this phenomenon and therefore prominently feature "most popular" article links on the front pages of their online publications.

This importance of information shared by humans is so significant that search engines now regularly take into account the information that your social network thinks is important in delivering the results of your search queries. For example, the results to the search "Paris Hilton" could be quite different — the person or the hotel — depending upon the news items that members of your social network share with each other.

This type of approach is called "social search," which, according to Wikipedia, is "a type of web search that takes into account the Social Graph of the person initiating the search query. When applied to web search this Social-Graph approach to relevance is in contrast to established algorithmic or machine-based approaches where relevance is determined by analyzing the text of each document or the link structure of the documents. Search results produced by social search engine give more visibility to content created or touched by users in the Social Graph."

What does this all mean for lawyers trying to market their services?

  • Publish online content regularly. Content is the key to visibility online. 
  • Publish good, helpful content. The more people like it, the more they will share it and the more visibility you will get. Be smart, but be accessible. 
  • Write about what you know. No matter how specialized you are, there is an audience that you can now reach through the "magic" of the Internet.

After a long pendulum swing that favored systems that automated volume and frequency of messages, we are now seeing a resurgence of the importance of quality. Write about what you know, be articulate and you will get noticed.