Online Legal Publishing : Part 1 (Good)

It's about time I sat down and posted the details of the presentation I gave at Online Information in November, so here we go 3 posts on the subject of Online Legal Publishing, neatly divided into the Good, The Bad and the downright ugly. This part....."The Good"

Most presentations these days about online publishing will mention Web 2.0, so this is where I will start, Web 2.0 is the term being used to describe the way new technologies are blurring the line between software and the Internet. For a much fuller description of Web 2.0 have a look at this article by Tim O'Reilly. I believe Web 2.0 and the rapid development of the internet will provide users with richer user experiences but only once they become truly usable. In the interim Legal publishers must harness some of the new technologies/publishing platforms.

These include new methods of providing current awareness services by harnessing technologies like RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summaries), Podcasts and Blogs. Several legal publishers are already demonstrating how RSS and Blogs can be used, Informa have RSS feeds for all the journals that are available in their I-Law product and Sweet and Maxwell have recently started providing exam revision podcasts for law students, these accompany the Nutshell Law Series) Cecile Park Publishing maintain several Blogs all of which are posted to on a regular basis, currently Lexis Nexis only provide an XML feed of "What's new"...in Canada.

Most of the trade journals like Legal Week and The Lawyer have had RSS feeds for a while and Legal Week has recently launched a Wiki. Free Legal Resources like the OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information) have also started adding RSS Feeds (RSS Feeds for UK Acts & SI’s) and the much anticipated and now launched Statute Law Database (SLD) will surely soon have RSS feeds.

So what does this all mean for Legal Publishers?

Well competition is increasing and I get the feeling legal publishers understand that the number of competitors isn't going to decrease it is going to increase. The problem for traditional publishers is that the "new" Web 2.0 savvy publishers wont have overheads, distribution, payroll or marketing costs to deal with because they will be web based and will either bloggers or companies that are using Web 2.0 technology.

This I believe is the main challenge that some legal publishers face, especially in niche areas, however there is a downside to this new competition and that is that the quality will not be as good as more traditional publishers. Ultimately this increase in competition can only be good for the end user.

Next...the bad