October 06, 2005
Can Institutional Blawgs Thrive?
Posted by Victor Fleischer

Matt Bodie has a great post on the future of blogging.  I think we've entered the "Internet Boom" phase, as evidenced by stodgy old institutions starting to wake up and get in on the action.  So ... what do we think of the future of the University of Chicago law faculty blog?  Off-line, several friends have expressed doubt.

I'm more optimistic.  To be sure, few institutional blogs have succeeded thus far.  Unless blogs have an identifiable voice, they aren't much fun to read.  Anyone who has been to a faculty meeting knows that cacophony trumps harmony.  And blogging might start to feel more like work.  And what do you do with law profs who just want to talk about personal stuff, not law?   

But these are not insurmountable problems.  The best strategy for law schools, I think, would be to tie blogs to programs and centers rather than to the school as a whole.  UCLA could start a corporate law blog, a tax blog, an entertainment blog, and a critical race blog.  Each blog would have no more than one to three faculty members blogging, plus a director and/or admin posting conference notices, links, and that sort of thing.  Chicago is small enough that it may fall into a group-blog rhythm pretty quickly, even without subdividing.

It is clear, at least to me, that blogging generates benefits for the blogger.  As it stands, those benefits mostly go to us bloggers in our individual capacities.  With an institutional blog, on the other hand, the school might pick up more of the branding/publicity/development benefits.

It's possible I'm underestimating the herding-cats problem.  Would this work for senior faculty?  Would Bainbridge give up his beloved tip jar?   Would Volokh give up his libertarian networking? 

Institutional blogs pose a threat to the status quo because they can offer resources (IT support, service credit, summer research money), potentially drawing away the talent pool from existing blogs.  We've now reached the stage where large institutions (not just law schools) are throwing resources at blogging.  Nine out of ten institutional blogs may fail, but the institutions that get the design right may come to dominate the blawg world.   

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