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The lesson 2,886 newspapers can teach
law firms about their marketing efforts

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 Law firms’ marketing efforts must avoid falling into this same trap that caused the demise of almost 3,000 U.S. newspapers

According to Northwestern University, since 2005, approximately 2,886 U.S. newspapers—about a third of the country’s newspapers—have gone out of business. That’s about 150 per year, or three per week.


These newspapers went out of business for several reasons, including ineffective management, shifting demographics, and advertisers moving their advertising budgets to digital ads. Obviously, there were particular reasons for one newspaper’s demise that were not factors in the demise of another.


But the universally fatal mistake these newspapers made is that they didn’t know how to make their content valuable to their target audiences—readers, subscribers, and advertisers—in the internet and social media eras. They didn’t know how to keep these target audiences coming back for more.


That’s an important lesson for law firms regarding their marketing efforts, particularly their thought leadership content creation efforts.


If your firm’s articles, blog posts, and other forms of content aren’t seen as valuable, they won’t be effective


If attorneys and law firms want their thought leadership content creation efforts to be successful, they need their target audiences to perceive their thought leadership as valuable.


With thought leadership, value comes in two forms: substance and format.


Regarding substance, the thought leadership an attorney or law firm is publishing will be valuable if it is relevant to their target audiences. That is, those audiences will benefit from consuming it.


Likewise, thought leadership is substantively valuable when it is compelling to an attorney’s or law firm’s target audiences. Thought leadership content is compelling when members of those target audiences enjoy consuming it, want to continue consuming it, and indicate their intention to do so by subscribing to an attorney’s or law firm’s newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel, etc.


Regarding format, thought leadership content will be perceived as valuable by an attorney’s or law firm’s target audiences when it meets them where they’re at.

Law firms tend to disseminate thought leadership in written form, such as blog posts, articles, client alerts, and newsletters. But not every client, referral source, or other target audience member prefers to read thought leadership.


Some prefer consuming thought leadership in video form, while others prefer consuming it as a podcast or webinar, or in another visual medium, such as an infographic. 


Given the practically infinite choices we have today for consuming content, even substantively valuable content won’t be perceived as valuable by a law firm’s target audiences if it isn’t delivered in the format those audiences prefer. If a prospective client prefers podcasts over blog posts, and one law firm offers a briefing on recent developments regarding insider trading as a podcast episode, and another only publishes a 3,000-word blog post covering similar material, which firm’s content do you think that prospective client will consume?


Providing thought leadership content in formats target audiences prefer to consume content in is as important as crafting substantively valuable thought leadership content. That’s why it is incumbent upon attorneys, their law firms, and their marketing and business development colleagues to understand that their clients, referral sources, and other members of their target audiences (i) will want to consume thought leadership content in various forms, and (ii) will determine how valuable an attorney’s or law firm’s content is based both on its substance and the formats available to them to consume it in.


The key to creating valuable thought leadership is meeting your target audiences where they’re at with relevant and compelling content


When attorneys and their law firms understand this, they can—and should—repurpose and repackage their relevant and compelling thought leadership content to increase its reach and their target audiences’ engagement with it. By repurposing this content, attorneys and their firms can get the best bang for their buck when attorneys devote non-billable time to content creation efforts or they bring on outside help, such as ghostwriters or video editors, to help create content. Why create “one and done” content when you can repurpose it or use it to create derivative pieces of content?


(It is table stakes for law firms’ thought leadership content to be substantively valuable—relevant and compelling. If it isn’t, attorneys and their firms should focus on increasing the quality of their thought leadership before turning to repurposing and repackaging.)


The good news is that today, it’s easy to repurpose and repackage thought leadership.


For example, an attorney can take a blog post and turn it into a video by recording a video during which they talk about the subject matter covered by the blog post. 


Or, an attorney can start with a video and then take the transcript of the video, polish it, and make it a blog post. They could also take the audio from a video and use it as a podcast episode.


Alternatively, they could post a webinar on YouTube, or slice and dice it or other long-form videos, and use those shorter videos on social media.


The attorneys and law firms that don’t understand that their thought leadership must be relevant and compelling, and must reach their clients, referral sources, and other members of their target audiences where they’re at and in the format that they prefer to consume it, are the attorneys and firms whose thought leadership will not be consumed as often as thought leadership from their competitors that know how to reach their various target audiences in their preferred formats.


Attorneys and law firms should learn from the almost 3,000 newspapers that have sadly gone out of business over the past two decades. Unfortunately, those newspapers did not understand how to keep their content valuable in the eyes of their target audiences.

Attorneys and their firms can create valuable thought leadership content by making sure it is relevant and compelling, and by putting it in the format most likely to be consumed by the people they want to impress and who they want to be perceived as knowledgeable and wise by.

Otherwise, they risk losing market share, missing out on opportunities for new client matters, and wasting time, money, and other resources creating thought leadership content that’s never consumed by its target audiences.


Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a thought leadership ghostwriting service for Big Law and boutique law firm partners. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps these partners grow their practice and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building thought leadership marketing and business development content.


Reprinted with permission from the March 8, 2024, edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2024 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877–257–3382 or

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