Newstex Interview About Blogging
I did an interview with Newstex, which syndicates my blog content, about my experiences as a content creator:
What made you become a content creator?
I started practicing law in 1994, at the beginning of the Dot Com boom. As my career grew alongside the Internet, I developed specialized expertise about Internet law that I wanted to share with the world, both to democratize my knowledge and build my personal brand. When I became a full-time law professor, publishing content became my day job. However, it wasn’t until I launched my blog in 2005 that I knew where I could express my specialized expertise.
What are some of the challenges you face as a content creator?
I blog about legal disputes. Many disputants believe in their cause, even if they aren’t good lawsuits, and some disputants really don’t appreciate having someone like me talk negatively about their choices (either in or out of court).
A few times a year, a disputant goes nuclear against me in response to my blogging. I’ve had disputants reach out to my bosses and colleagues to pressure me to delete or change my posts. I’ve had disputants leave nasty voicemails threatening to ruin my life. I’ve had disputants try to deindex my blog in Google and get my blog service provider kicked off AWS. I’ve had disputants falsely accuse me of sexually harassing my students. I’ve even had a disputant file a Title IX complaint against me (no, the law doesn’t work that way).
As a tenured law professor, I am extraordinarily privileged, so these attacks do not materially impact me. Still, it’s a sad reality of writing about legal cases.
What are some digital publications that you follow?
I rely heavily on four tools: (1) my RSS reader (I use Feedly), where I have over 150 subscriptions, (2) email alerts I’ve set up in databases like Westlaw and Lexis, (3) email newsletter subscriptions, and (4) social media. Collectively, I usually review over 1,000 news items a day. This provides the source material for my social media activity and my blogging. I can cherry-pick the 1-4 most interesting items per day that I’ve seen.
Why did you decide to syndicate your content with Newstex?
Newstex indexes my content in electronic databases like Westlaw. That gives me exposure to a greater audience than I would reach otherwise.
What do you like most about creating digital content?
I like translating complex legal and technical topics so that they become understandable for lay readers.
I like breaking news so that my audience can be the first to know about developments that matter to them.
I like telling jokes, especially when they land. Using the perfect meme, GIF, or emoji is really satisfying.
What do you dislike most about creating digital content?
I deal with complex areas of law where disputants repeatedly get the law wrong and where legislators propose (and sometimes pass) incredibly ill-conceived policies. I feel some ennui covering oft-repeated mistakes…over and over again…. At some point, it becomes joyless to talk about a new development when I’ve pointed out its pitfalls in dozens of posts over years. I cover these items in service of my audience, but it’s not particularly fun.
What inspires you to keep writing?
The Internet’s fate is hanging in the balance right now. Far too many regulators and litigants are doing everything they can to make the Internet less functional and more censored. After writing about Internet Law for 30 years, I am deeply invested in fighting to keep the Internet we know and love.
What do you think are the benefits of syndicating your content through Newstex?
In addition to the expanded audience, getting a check for the work I’m already doing feels like free money.
What are the top 3 tips you can give to others wanting to develop successful digital publications?
Don’t be shy about letting your personality shine through. Blog posts about legal developments that dryly report just the facts are tedious to read.
Develop unique information sources so you can break news in your community. This usually requires some extra effort to sort the wheat from the chaff, but you will earn greater loyalty from your audience for doing that work for them.
If you aren’t excited about writing a post, then don’t. Your lack of enthusiasm will come through, plus you’ll be miserable doing it. As I tell my co-bloggers: if blogging isn’t fun, don’t do it!
Where do you see your blog in 5 years?
I’ve been blogging now for over 17 years. Over the years, I changed blog hosts, the backend software, and the frontend UI, but the blog’s content scope and style of posts have stayed remarkably consistent over the last dozen years. So most likely, in five years, I’ll be doing pretty much exactly what I’m doing now.
What has been your proudest achievement as a blogger?
My blog has been cited in court opinions, cited by elected officials in their public remarks, and inducted into my industry’s blogger “Hall of Fame.” Because of my blog, I have been asked to write for prestigious publications, invited to give lectures, and hired as an expert witness. But honestly, my best moments as a blogger occur when I run into a reader who tells me how my blog helped them do their job better. My audience (mostly very busy lawyers) face extreme competition for their time and attention, so the fact that so many of them choose to read my blog is profoundly satisfying.