So, no surprise, everyone struggles to be cited, quoted, and featured in digital media properties such as Abovethelaw.com. The days they link to us, we are hot. Then when they stop, at least for a while as Abovethelaw.com has with the "tips" I send it, we are not. And like dumped lovers, we pine. We do an autopsy on what we might have done wrong. We call our psychic, asking if we will ever be in the limelight again, happily crushed under the pressure of heavy traffic and mean comments.
Other big successes include businessinsider.com, drudgereport.com, gawker.com, and techcrunch.com.
This is in contrast to the sorry state of what is known as "old media." This week a feature story by Frank Rick in NEW YORK Magazine, which has been able to remain hot despite its old-media roots, chronicles the demise of once-influential media brandnames. They range from TIME to THE NEW YORK TIMES. Rich observes:
"Virtually no one in the news business was prescient enough to imagine just how radical the impact of the Internet would be."
Though they have tried, they still can't manage to get caught up to the new rules of attracting eyeballs, likes, shares, tweets, and comments. Yet all that comes naturally to the Gang of Four at Abovethelaw.com.
What are the rules? As practiced by the Gang of Four they include:
Never missing a trick. They and their news scouts monitor, analyze, interpret, and then post on whatever they determine is worth their readers' attention. They are either right in their assessment or they configure the material to compel. Recent examples are the wistful recounting by the anonymous lawyer who did not make partner (a primal wound in the legal sector) and an interview with the Martin Luther-like reformer of the profession of law (yes, he believes he can return it to that from a crass business) Steven Harper, author of bestseller "The Lawyer Bubble."
Sarcastic tone. As anyone around teenagers knows, youth power comes from their ability to speedread a situation, see the ridiculous parts, and then let loose with witty negatives. We want to avoid a tongue-lashing from the Gang of Four. Therefore, their influence grows, unabated.
Responses in real time. When a story goes viral, for positive or negative reasons, the managing editor David Lat will parachute in to highlight the phenomenon, add more perspective, and solicit more input from the world. In public relations, that tactic is called "managing controversy" and is among the most effective ways to gain enough attention to define the conversation. Many clients are afraid of it.
Developing new products. Today in my e-mail I received a copy of the Abovethelaw.com newsletter about partner issues. This extends the franchise beyond the target market of law students and new to four-year associates.
Of course, we can learn from these digital players. But we may never be one. Past conditioning in old media might have rendered us too rigid in our mental models, too slow, too polite, too cautious, and too unimaginative about what the market will buy.
Meanwhile, we remain on the fringes, watching, hoping they will again ask us into the magic circle, even for one link.