Should I Blog? (Part 2 of a 3 Part Series on Blogs)

This is the second of a three part series about blogging based on my presentation at a Minnesota IP CLE last month. Today’s question: should I blog?

The answer is purely based on cost-benefit. What does blogging cost, and what are its benefits? Let me recap some of the advantages and costs of blogging:

Advantages:

1) Blogging helps build a personal brand. Blogging is a form of content production, and content is the best form of marketing. Blogging allows me to demonstrate my expertise, either through my words or through my sheer repetition on a particular topic. Personal brand-building creates all kinds of opportunities for academic pursuits, policy-making and, in some cases, profit.

2) Blogging allows me to learn a little more about who is reading my work. Bloggers tend to be pretty stat-obsessed, and our desire for information about our readers is generally unfulfilled through most traditional media. Even electronic publishing tools like SSRN, which give us some download counts, don’t give any insights beyond the raw download numbers.

With blogging, I can see all kinds of stats about my readers–where they are located geographically, who is linking to my work, what pages are popular. All of this gives helpful feedback to me as a writer, and incidentally allows for much better quantitative benchmarking of success.

3) Blogging is a way of organizing data for my own future retrieval. For example, for the last 2 years, John Ottaviani and I have published a list of the top 10 cyberlaw/IP cases of the prior year. With the blog, it’s very easy to see what I’ve blogged about and pick the top cases from that.

4) Blogging is fun. I like to write and I have a lot to say (or, at least, I think I do). Having a platform to weigh in with my thoughts about issues is rewarding and enjoyable. Not everyone likes to write, and not everyone finds it fun. I do.

5) Blogging can generate revenues. I wouldn’t say it’s profitable, but still, there can be cash from blogging.

Disadvantages:

1) Blogs are very time-consuming. It’s tempting to think that blogging is strictly about posting new content, but that’s only a modest fraction of the work. In addition to generating new content, the time requirements include:

* setting up the blog’s infrastructure

* maintaining the infrastructure

* responding to public comments and private emails

* dealing with trackback and comment spam (if you enable to those features)

* marketing the blog to build readership (getting indexed, emailing other bloggers to let them know of a posting)

* lining up guests (if applicable)

In addition, many bloggers choose to subscribe a wide variety of other blogs so that they can feel like part of the conversation. And many bloggers also obsess about the stats. While neither of these is required for blogging, these activities also take a significant amount of time.

2) I have all of the legal risks of being a publisher, including the risk of being sued for copyright infringement, defamation, etc.

3) I have non-legal risks from publishing content. In my case, I have the risk that my blog could be held against me for tenure, promotion or compensation purposes. In a typical lawyer case, a lawyer may have limits on their ability to blog about client matters, either expressly under the Rules of Professional Conduct or implicitly under concerns about strategic conflicts (i.e., ticking off an important client). Certainly any public position I take on the blog has the risk of being cited back against me in future negotiations or evaluations. And, to the extent that I try to work quickly, many of my blog posts lack the same degree of polish as other publications; but increasing their precision also increases my time investment.

Net conclusion:

Whether the time invested in blogging justifies the benefits is a question that can be answered only by each person looking at their situation. However, there’s no question that blogging can be very beneficial. There’s also no question that those benefits come at a significant opportunity cost–in the latter case, blogging can come at the expense of time that could be spent writing articles, speaking, networking, playing with the kids or doing a hobby. Is blogging the best allocation of that time? Before you begin, make sure it’s worth it.

In the next part, I’ll talk about how to get started if you decide to join in the fun.

This post is part of a three-part series:

Part 1 of 3: How I decide which blogs to read?

Part 2 of 3: Should I blog?

Part 3 of 3: If I decide I want to blog, how do I get started?

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