How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Prof. Yabut

Reviewing this book, Glenn Reynolds' said that Hewitt gets it: "the vast hordes of small blogs with a few dozen readers are more important than the small number of big blogs with hundreds of thousands of readers." Maybe Hugh forgot this point when covering weblawgs.


Reynolds is right about that Hewitt spends time in the book discussing the importance of lesser-traffic weblogs. His analogy is to a comet: the lesser traffic blogs are the tail.

"The power of the tail" is the aggregate number of visitors, not to any particular blog within the tail, but collectively to all blogs on the tail, and the fact that these low- or medium-traffice blogs generally enjoy the trust of their visitors. Say the web traffic on any given day for the top ten blogs is two million visitors. Of course, given the enormous influence of these two million visitors, that's an audience a would-be opinion influencer must try to target.

But there is huge, huge audience out among the tail. If a point of view or product makes its way throughout most of the blogs in the tail, the audience for that point of view or product will far outstrip even the largest audience for the biggest blogs

Hewitt goes on to explain how he developed a way to harness the power of the lesser-traffic blogs to promote his own viewpoints. To the extent he sees lesser-traffic blogs only as sled-dogs for the high-traffic blogs, I think his view is too narrow. To the extent he thinks that the merits of a particular viewpoint should be measured by the weblog traffic it has received, I disagree--in my view, when a lot of people jump on any bandwagon, that's when I'm ready to jump off.

In any event, before describing the legal blogosphere, Hewitt should have spent a few hours learning about it.


By the way, I know there's a typo in this post ("stHere's Hugh"), but typepad isn't working well today and I can't get into my site to fix it. Sorry. I'll fix it later.

Pete Holiday

Based on what you've posted I don't really see Hewitt even insinuating that the blawgosphere is limited to those that he pointed out -- surely you didn't expect him to list every Law Blog by name, did you?

Having not read the book it's difficult to say, but I don't think your post makes a very strong case that Hewitt has taken a myopic view of Law Blogs.


Pete: You might be right. I guess my objection is this sentence: "Other lawblogs such as How Appealing and BeldarBlog have filled the law side of the blogosphere, and more will arrive." First, BeldarBlog. BeldarBlog is great, and it gets a lot of well-deserved recognition in Hewitt's book--but as a "poliblog," not a law blog. (Beldar was very involved in Kerry-bashing during the election. He did a good job of it, by the way.) So you're left with How Appealing that fills out the law side of the blogosphere, with more to arrive. You can make the point that Hewitt did say "such as." And perhaps I'm being picky. But given that BeldarBlog is defined throughout as a political weblog, you can't help but come away with the impression that the legal blogosphere is made up of one weblog that Hewitt doesn't think is popular anymore--Volokh--plus How Appealing, plus two others that won't really rock until the next Supreme Court nominee comes along. And although I left this out of my post, Hewitt also makes up a third legal weblog--NomineeBlog or something--that doesn't even exist, as if to say that there's not even another weblog, other than few (very good) weblogs he already mentioned, to use as examples. And I'll tell you why he doesn't mention any--because he doesn't know of any.

Of course I didn't expect Hewitt to mention every legal weblog. But in a book filled from start to finish with examples of actual weblogs, I'd expect him to name at least a few more than he did. Instead, he left the impression that the legal blogosphere is a vast wasteland waiting for some smart lawyers come along to fill it up. That's an unfair impression, as many lawyers are already there. In a conservative-leaning book such as his, you'd think Hewitt could have mentioned overlawyered, at least, which has Ted Frank and Walter Olson. But he doesn't.

P.S. I know Walter Olson's not a lawyer, but in my book at least, he's an honorary lawyer. I'm sure he'll love to hear that.


"It's just too bad that Hugh's insights were accompanied by so much conservative chest-thumping, because it will probably limit the audience for the book."

Evan: I am glad to see you are a true intellectual, i.e one who searches for good ideas and truth -- even if the search occurs in the camp of an orthodoxy that differs from your own.


JR: Intellectual or not, I still try to avoid camps containing books written by Rush Limbaugh--although I do catch his radio show from time to time.

Al Nye

Evan, I'm half way through the book and plan to do a review when I'm finished. I've noticed the conservative slant that you mention and am reserving judgment until I've read the whole book before coming to any conclusions -- as you do -- that this may limit the audience for the book.

One part of the book where I noticed the conservative slant, for example, was his discussion of the first presidential debate between Bush and Kerry.

While blogging about the debate, Hewitt writes: "I believed George W. Bush had won the debate, and that John Kerry had committed incredible blunders. Very, very few pundits agreed with me. I was right."

To which I respond: guess what Hugh -- there are still lots of folks out there that think Kerry won that debate. Sorry, but I'm not sure you are right on this one.

Anyway, I'm enjoying the book so far and will report more later.

Al Nye


I haven't read the book (or heard of it, until now). From this discussion, it sounds like it focuses on the blog as punditry, and readers as receivers of opinions. It's true that the most popular blogs focus on certain issues and viewpoints and may influence their readers, or at least get their readers thinking about those issues. But the "tail" blogs -- the small ones with a few dozen readers -- are the ones that foster community. I skim the Volokh Conspiracy to see what they're talking about, but if somebody in my immediate blog community -- the few dozen readers I have, and the few dozen writers of the blogs I frequent -- makes a point, I'm likely to pay more attention.

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