When lawyers and law firms get focused on “creating content” (for those of you living in caves, that’s what “writing” is now called), they think mostly about the subject matter. And that makes a lot of sense, for obvious reasons. But often forgotten is how to get that content in front of the intended “audience” — as “readers” are now known.
In the good old days, law firms distributed their content by the U.S. Postal Service: Copies of lawyer-authored articles and newsletters were stuffed into envelopes, labeled and then run through the closest postal meter. But this once-bedrock activity of legal marketing hit its peak sometime near the end of the last century. Marketing assistants and mailroom clerks everywhere are not sad that this era is long gone.
Content Syndicators Make It So Easy
We now live in the time of digital distribution, usually via email. But the inherent and entirely predictable problems of law firms (mis)managing their email lists has led to the emergence of “content syndicators” or “content aggregators” specifically for lawyers and their firms.
A good number of large and mid-sized law firms use at least one syndication service regularly. And some solo practitioners and small firms use or have at least heard of them, too. Most content syndicators offer the same basic services for varying amounts of money, but there are some free opportunities to have your content read by people far beyond those sitting in their own contacts’ lists.
Content syndicators should not be confused with more traditional media outlets, although a few syndicator websites may imitate such a look and feel, and many have earned good reputations with reporters and editors looking for expert sources. But syndicators aren’t news organizations: They rely solely on their law firm and lawyer clients to provide them content, and they don’t normally have their own reporters, writers or even editors.
In fact, the primary service of a syndicator is collecting (or “curating” or “aggregating” in content-speak) articles from lawyers and firms for inclusion on its website. It then informs large groups of subscribers or registered users of those articles’ existence. In a typical week or month, the syndicators send hundreds of thousands of emails, usually tailored to their subscribers’ preferences, highlighting the newly “published” articles with their headlines or even a short summary, along with a link back to the article on the syndicator’s website.
A content syndicator typically charges an annual fee to the lawyers or law firms for this type of distribution to such a wide audience. But most offer readers free access to their website and the articles, as well as the option to sign up to receive emails on dozens of legal-related topics.
Here’s a quick rundown on the top legal content syndicators, with information harvested from their websites:
- JD Supra. Boasting 350,000 active subscribers, this U.S.-based syndicator offers a variety of ways to receive information about articles that have been posted. It specifically highlights its social media marketing efforts for content providers, along with some serious shout-outs to journalists and various media outlets about its benefits.
- Lexology. A significant differentiator for this U.K-based syndicator is its partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel to provide its membership with the daily ACC Newsstand email, which features content submitted by Lexology’s law firm clients. It also has more than 475,000 articles available for use by searching its archives.
- Mondaq. This U.K.-based syndicator offers specific information to its law firm clients on who is reading their articles and when, providing an opportunity for lawyers to follow up with prospects personally if desired.
- National Law Review. Originally started by a small group of in-house counsel, this U.S.-based syndicator now counts more than 130,000 email digest subscribers and more than 250,000 readers per month.
Other outlets for lawyer-generated content that closely resembles the top syndicators include:
- Avvo. While seemingly focused more on publishing an online version of the Yellow Pages for solo and small-firm lawyers, Avvo also offers opportunities to answer specific topical questions in a “Q&A” format, as well as to submit content for expert online “Legal Guides.” Both are free to lawyers; site visitors can also access the information for free.
- Law360.com. This site usually requires a paid subscription to view most of its articles, but in return, it has a large staff of writers and editors that cover a wide expanse of significant cases and other legal news. It offers lawyers and firms a chance to submit “expert analysis” articles that follow specific guidelines. The site doesn’t pay for the articles, nor does it charge the firms for publication.
- LinkedIn. Anyone with a profile can be a publisher on this social media site focused mostly on business relationships. But the site doesn’t offer or guarantee that anyone beyond colleagues or contacts will see what is written.
- ALM. This legal publishing powerhouse offers numerous opportunities — both paid and free — in its many traditional and digital media outlets.
The question of the value of syndication inevitably is asked. The answer depends, of course, on your marketing strategy and goals. For some firms, building brand visibility in a particular subject area is success enough. Others may want to be able to follow up with specific prospects. In either situation (or somewhere in between) there’s likely some benefit to be achieved in your content marketing efforts by using a syndicator.