When publishing a legal magazine was limited to layout, print and distribution, life was a little simpler than it is today... | DDLSBulletin

Why it was such a good idea to move local law society magazines online

There was something rewarding and finite about hitting the print deadline and watching the finished product roll off the press, knowing that next day it would be landing on lawyers’ desks.  

In September 2007, we launched printed magazines for three local law societies – Derbyshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk. Members enjoyed receiving regular news updates of the legal developments in their regions in magazine format. News, pictures, something to flick through, when time permitted. 

But time soon moved on, and with the arrival of the internet, expectations moved on too. 

With the closure of the Solicitors Journal, alarm bells started ringing as to the future of print and, more importantly, the effectiveness of advertising in this format if readers were moving away from it.

Online is more than just digital

It soon became clear that, despite the demise of print newspapers and magazines in many sectors, printed journals remained popular with local law societies and their members. 

Some societies experimented with creating an online version of their magazine. This was generally in the form of a pdf document, which could be emailed to members or accessed through the society’s website. But they proved to be no substitute for the real thing. 

Just putting a newsletter into a digital format didn’t make it easier to access and enjoy. In fact, these early forays into online publishing left members squinting over expanded text, getting easily lost, and feeling frustrated that technology was making it more difficult rather than easier to read the newsletters. 

The digital versions didn’t have a great uptake, with members still preferring the feel of a real magazine. 

We knew we needed something readable, clickable and interactive if we were to succeed in engaging readers online as well as they were being engaged in print.

Embracing the blog format to engage members online

Our aim had always been to engage as many readers as possible to ensure advertisers were gaining maximum exposure. So we decided to continue printing magazines, but started publishing the content of the magazines in blog format. 

There are multiple benefits to this development that take members way beyond a digital alternative to the printed magazine. 

We’re moving them into a world of multi-platform accessibility, more relevant content, greater flexibility and the ability to share and discuss content, and stay right up-to-date with legal developments in their region.

Increased accessibility – content when you need it

We totally reformat the content going into the printed version, so that reading it is just like reading any other webpage. Easy to scroll through, with clickable links to related content, writer biographies and law firm and advertisers websites, this is a truly interactive experience.

Key to this reformatting is that the blog is optimised for multiple platforms, so members can access content on phones, tablets and laptops. This means the magazine’s content is never far away, even if the printed version is back in the office still in its cellophane. 

Adverts and web pages can be fully accessed through clicking on links to gain more in-depth information on news, products or services. Lawyers can read articles at times to suit them, such as on the train or over lunch, and they can dip in and out of articles of interest to them.

Greater control of content – giving members what they want

The exciting thing about not being tied to a print timeline is that we can post (and repost) content when we want. 

The law society administrator can promote content by using email and social media to highlight key articles or notable events in the society’s calendar. Gone are the days of news being old news by the time the printed magazine reaches the reader.

With access to online analytics tools, it’s also possible to get a really good idea of how well particular content is working. What works well, we can commission more of, what doesn’t we can drop.

If responses or views are low, we can research when members are most active online, and post content to coincide. We can also follow the audience we wish to connect with. 

A hub for discussion through shareable content 

Content published through the local law society blog has the potential to be much more influential than its counterpart in the printed magazine.

The society administrator, the author, and indeed anyone else who accesses the content, can share it across their social media networks. This can lead to varying degrees of engagement (liking, commenting and sharing) – which can profoundly extend the reach of an article beyond the (relatively) narrow readership of the printed magazine. 

Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are particularly useful tools for extending the reach of content, and enhancing the reputation of the author. This is a huge benefit of publishing content in a blog format.

Regular updates – keeping members up to speed

With a simple email to members, the law society administrator can send regular updates reminding them of content, through links to particular articles. This gives members the opportunity to catch items of interest they may have missed in the printed magazine or in earlier updates. 

Because we’re not bound by any deadlines, we can put out newsflashes with news of key cases, new legislative developments and changes within the society as they happen, so members don’t have to wait until the printed version to be brought up to speed.

Unique domain – no invasion

There is no web host or social media platform attached to any of the blogs, so they belong to the society. This eliminates any unwanted aspects such as invasive adverts or blocking, which can occur on hosted or shared domains. 

Like the printed magazine, the blog’s aim is to serve the society. It has to meet the society’s and members’ needs. The blog is there to help the society raise its profile, in the same way as the printed publication, and it does so with all the added benefits of embracing the opportunities of online.

Come and see us at LegalEx on the 27th and 28th March. We’d love to talk to you about how we’re helping local law societies across the UK bring their members cutting-edge online magazines.