The declining value of (legal) news

By Nick Holmes on January 30, 2009
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Filed under Legal news

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 is the guy when it comes to commenting on the new landscape for news publishing. Back in May last year he posted about The declining value of redundant news content on the web.

I’ll illustrate his point with a UK legal news example. Here are just a few headlines from the legal press stories generated this week when Linklaters announced that it will cut up to 120 lawyers and 150 business support staff.

  • Linklaters to lose 270 jobs as ‘magic circle’ regroups (Times)
  • Linklaters review set to claim up to 270 jobs (Legal Week)
  • Linklaters announces job cuts (Law Society Gazette)

Google linklaters 120 lawyers and 150 business and you’ll find at least 50 more variations of the same story.

Per Scott:

We all know how this happened, of course. All of the print publications … have to create a version of this story for their print publication, and then dump that story on the web. All of the web-native … sites, competing tooth and nail for page views, are all obligated to publish at least one if not multiple takes on this story. Then there are all the sites that reproduced the wire version of the story.

If each site were, as in print, an island unto itself, this would make sense – if the news outlet did not cover the story then its readers might not know about it. But seen as a whole on the web, which connects each and every one of these websites, and especially seen through the lens of an aggregator …, this huge mass of content about the same story doesn’t make much economic sense.

This can’t go on, can it? It may be a while before the majority grabs its news via aggregators, but as we move forward, more and more online readers will become disillusioned with the news reporting that once had value but now has none.

Here’s Scott’s message for the news publishers:

BE ORIGINAL. That means when you consider publishing an original news item, be aware of the larger marketplace for that news. If it’s hugely competitive, consider allocating your limited reporting resources elsewhere, and instead find other ways to create value around the story.

If I were in the (legal) news business I’d start now.