Comparing legal blogging platforms

I originally got into blogging because I was past deadline for my nothing.but.net magazine column for the American Bar Association. Three searches in three days resulted in #1 results for John Robb’s blog – and, being me, I called John to ask him why he kept showing up at the top of my Google queries. (More on that here.)

John was at Userland at the time, his enthusiasm for blogging was infectious, and I started a blog so I’d have something to write about. Here we are 8 years later, and it’s very cool to see a number of companies emerging to offer blogging guidance to lawyers and law firms.

So I was pretty disappointed to run across a post tonight from one of those new entrants, Avvo, who wrote up a post on their blog purporting to compare “legal blogging platforms”. In the post is a chart that compares Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad, along with Avvo and LexBlog, two of the companies focused on the legal blog space. The post would lead one to believe that the only rational choice is to spend $25/month on an Avvo Legal Blogs.

I tried to comment on the post, but (irony of ironies) it seems to have vanished. Just in case it stays in limbo, here’s the text of the comment that I left earlier tonight:

Conrad, as a non-practicing lawyer and an avid supporter of lawyers embracing new technology, I’m thrilled to see you call attention to the benefits that blogging can have for a professional’s marketing efforts. I started a blog 8 years ago, and was one of the first lawyers to advocate for blogs as a marketing vehicle (both in my ABA column in LPM magazine as well as in the book I co-authored about marketing on the Internet, also published by the ABA).

However, I’m disappointed that you misrepresent almost every aspect of Blogger in your comparison. I’m the product manager for Blogger, and find your statements about its capabilities to be quite misleading.

For starters, Blogger is the most visited blogging platform in the world, and millions of users use Blogger to publish to their blogs every week – for free.

In addition to gadgets built specifically for the millions of users who rely on Blogger (http://buzz.blogger.com/2009/07/contribute-gadgets-to-blogger.html), our users can control every element of their page and embed Flash, javascript and any other interactive code provided third parties that they want, giving them complete control over the functionality of their blog.

Domain registration and configuration is built into the app itself – allowing users to easily register their domain and begin publishing within minutes. My own blog is hosted by Blogger at http://tins.rklau.com/ – for which I pay nothing other than the domain registration fee. See this page for more info including a simple how-to video:

http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/answer.py?answer=76543.

Our Terms of Service explicitly establish that the user owns all content they create: “Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services.” Link:

http://www.blogger.com/terms.g

In addition to controlling their own design, users can choose from thousands of third-party designed templates for a completely unique presentation. See here for links to some of the more popular designers:

http://buzz.blogger.com/2009/06/spruce-up-your-blog.html

Blogger’s not for everyone, and I think there’s ample room in this space for solutions tailored to the needs of the professionals you’re catering to. But let’s trust our users to make fully-informed decisions based on accurate representations of each platform.

–Rick Klau
Product Manager, Blogger
rklau@google.com
http://tins.rklau.com/

Other comments indicate that Conrad’s comparison is further flawed; Kevin O’Keefe took issue with some of the claims about LexBlog, Rex Gradeless pointed out that WordPress.com isn’t as limited as Conrad claimed, and Doug Cornelius suggested that self-hosted WordPress deserved a look too.

I’ll reiterate what I said in the comment: there’s plenty of room in this space for healthy competition. My law school roommate is a very happy customer of Kevin’s at LexBlog. (Of course, I have also challenged Kevin – on his claim that Blogger’s a non-starter for professionals – he’s entitled to his opinion, but there are many, many professionals using Blogger and doing just fine. I’d like to think I’m one, btw.)

Bottom line, healthy competition should be on the merits, not on misstatements of fact.

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