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No Longer Nasty Brutish and Short: The Growing Organization of the Legal Blogosphere

The legal blogosphere began, as we have discussed, as a Hobbsian state of nature.  See Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings.  The Blogosphere was originally populated by individual faculty who for one reason or another started a law blog.  The platform was outside their home law school, providing a certain degree of libertarian style independence.  The Blogs would focus on that faculty member's particular musings.  there has been a tendency for law blogs to either fall into the camp of gossip (a broadly defined term that would, for example, encompass Brian Leiter's Law School Blog) or specific substantive areas.  They came and went. 

Over the last few years, however, order has begun to overtake the blogosphere.  First, the blogs have largely ceased to be the isolated musings of individual faculty.  One change has been the advent of Empires.  Paul Caron at Cincinnati has run a blog Empire, the Law Professors Blog, with his writers receiving compensation (something discussed in Of Empires, Independents, and Captives: Law Blogging, Law Scholarship, and Law School Rankings) and coming under a common rubric.  These Blogs remain located on independent servers but have lost their libertarian spirit through common rules that, for example, eschew personal musings. 

In addition, law blogs associated with specific law schools and relying on their servers have become more common.  Some are faculty blogs, advertisements mostly, although others are more substantive.  Chicago is a good example of law school with a successful faculty blog.  Others are substantive blogs, with the Harvard Corporate Governance Blog an example of this category.  Finally, many other successful law blogs have either started as, or have evolved into, a group effort, with the members changing and shifting but providing constant content.  The Conglomerate and Truth on the Market are examples. 

Those individuals who were on the blogosphere at the beginning, starting their own idiosyncratic blog, have begun to die off.   It may be that readers want the benefit of organization.  It may also be that running a blog as an individual is a grinding task of daily posts.

An example of that occurred this week with the announcement by Larry Ribstein that Ideoblog, after six years, would go out of business.  He would instead lend his often weighty voice to Truth on the Market.  In short, he has joined a group effort.  His explanation was that the move "will not only unite me with a great group of market-oriented commentators, but also expand my reach." 

Its always hard to judge the "reach" of a blog but various measurements indicate similar numbers for the two blogs.  On site meter,  Ideoblog averaged somewhere around 375 unique hits a day compared with around 425 at Truth on the Market.   The Justia rankings put Ideoblog at 96 on their all time list and Truth on the Market at 106.  Both apparently have a 6 on the Google rating scale.  Nonetheless, the move allows him to maintain a serious internet presence yet at the same time avoiding the daily responsibilities associated with maintaining a law blog. 

In the corporate governance area, that leaves as entirely solitary affairs only the efforts of Steve BainbridgeThe Race to the Bottom is a bit of a hybrid, involving contributions by faculty and students.  The students have created an editorial board with student contributors.  Posts are examined for blue book compliance.  For a history of The Race to the Bottom, go here.  Nonetheless, it remains excessively dependent upon a single faculty contributor (although that also appears to be evolving). 

There is little questions that the blogosphere is becoming better organized and less idiosyncratic.  There is certainly something lost in the process.  As Steve Bainbridge notes, these individual voices:  

  • tend to be more coherent. They have a real voice rather than a cacophony of noises. I feel a greater degree of personal connection to a sole-authored blog than to a group. The quality of group blogs tends to be uneven.

Organization has its benefits but also its costs.  The demise of Ideoblog is part of that process.  

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