Blog sponsorships are nothing new to the online tech community. For examples, we can look to GigaOM or Techcrunch. But in other blogging communities, including law, the idea of sponsorship is quite new. It could be the fact that commercial applications typically lag behind web innovation; that we usually experiment to see if something delivers, readers adopt, and then monetization strategy follows once we’re beyond the proving ground. It may also stem from our aversion to spam and anything directly commercial online. Kevin O’Keefe has said he’s not a fan of ads on blogs and that it cheapens the offering, but I suspect with an appropriate design fit he’d be ok with the sponsorship concept. And depending on the blog, of course.
My next question would be on the strategic fit. A blog on International private law and Clifford Chance? Obviously it’s a good fit, and frankly, they get kudos for being both the first mover, and picking off a desirable audience of global decision makers.
The other value test here, is to question whether the firm could build this property & audience on their own. CC has both the resources and in-house expertise to do so, but may not have been able to make the business case internally. Busy attorneys, a lack of time, and so forth. That’s too bad. I’m a big believer in firms owning web properties, and the associated audience & relationships. This may not get reflected in a traditional ROI equation, but the value is there – new business relationships with targeted decision makers, marketing collateral, search rankings, referral networks – the list is extensive. CC gets some of those things with this move, but it isn’t their audience, and long term I’d rather see those assets under CC management.
Will law blog sponsorships become a trend? Perhaps. I can see firms choosing sponsorship as a springboard to other online strategies, or using it to engage niche target audiences. Firms may also use a strategy that includes both in-house blogs and a network of blog sponsorships — it’s working for ALM, isn’t it? :)
I see a lot of value in blog sponsorship as compared to other forms of web advertising. What many blogs lack in reader volume, they more than make up for with audiences that are focused & clearly defined. Aggregate a series of selected sponsorships together and it could be *very* good advertising. My concern, is that firms will see this as an alternative to blogging themselves. As part of a larger integrated approach, I think it makes a lot of sense. But on its own, firms will remain without a ‘voice’ and excluded from the online conversations within their chosen markets.