Santa’s got a list. He’s checking it twice. Every “list” deserves a little scrutiny—a second look? Well, here’s to that…
In a few weeks we’ll not only know who’s been naughty or nice, we’ll know who tops the 8th annual ABA Blawg 100 list. (Anyone can register to vote their favorites from the nominees here.)
The Blawg 100 gets published and everyone in the niche clamors. Why? Because it’s interesting to see what law blogs our peers and blogger brethren are reading and loving each year, and more importantly who earned their bragging rights.
Each year there are a dozen or so new entries that I never would have known about, but for this list. This year is no exception. (Great campaigning guys!)
Sadly though, this year I note that a number of really outstanding law blogs, which had made prior years top 100, are now off the list. Out with the old, in with the new. Got me thinking. Have these once power house blogs been diminished? To cure my intellectual curiosity, I set off to find out: Does the Blawg 100 stack up to the top ranked law blogs?
A fine experiment
To find the answer I consulted the Blog Rank 50, a list based strictly on 20 web metrics. They collect data on thousands of your favorite blogs, in many categories, not just law, and evaluate them against common metrics, then ranks them using a unique formula.
I’m not a scientist. Assuredly, my fine experiment to compare the people’s choice against the cold, stark reality of metrics would be somewhat flawed. For one, I’m comparing 100 blogs against 50 blogs. It’s quite possible that some of the Blawg 100 could be statistically in next 50, but unfortunately, Blog Rank only gives me 50 in their “ultimate rankings.”
Likewise, until the popular votes come in, the ABA Blawg 100 is not ranked numerically 1 – 100 in descending popularity. So I have no clue which are their top 50 blogs. Does it really matter? No. This is just for fun.
About the rankers
To be useful, you have to be able to trust the people voting and compiling subjective and/or objective data. Subjective lists are biased and can be unreliable—they can be gamed in a variety of ways; for a variety of reasons.
And, although harder to game, objective lists created from data sets and algorithms can contain errors.
For my purpose, I considered both lists to be fairly trustworthy, enough to get an idea of what law blogs are at the top.
(1) The ABA 2014 Blawg 100.
Now in it’s 8th year of ranking the most popular law blogs, the Blawg 100 editors say (comments in parentheses are mine):
“No, we don’t just go through the 4,000-plus blogs in our directory and consult a Magic 8 Ball to decide what to add or scratch off our list. We remember the blogs that have tipped us off to breaking news and the bloggers who have compelled us to write about their innovative ideas.
“And over the summer, we cue readers (of the ABA Journal, a paid subscription-based publication included in ABA membership)—and other bloggers (and their friends)—to write in and let us know about their favorites: When we can see their love for a blog is real and not a marketing hustle, it catches our attention.”
The list editors compile and post the 100 blogs (nominees). Registered users then get 13 chances to vote their favorites. According to the Blawg 100 FAQs, they call this second step a “friendly competition.”
(2) Blog Rank. (The ultimate list)
“Blog Rank uses over 20 different factors to rank the blogs in any category. (They collect data for all types of blogs in dozens of industries, not just law blogs.) Some of the factors include: RSS membership, incoming links, Compete, Alexa, and Technorati ranking (Note: Technorati stopped ranking blogs in May 2014), and social sites popularity. (In other words, they use data that suggests user engagement.) Although we have collected a lot of blogs, we haven’t collected them all. [Learn more about our ranking logic].”
It is unlikely that Blog Rank indexes all blogs listed in the Blawg 100, which are selected only from those in the ABA blog directory—a submission-based directory. This makes any strict comparison less than accurate. But I move on…
To the results
- The #1 statistically ranked blog in the “law” category according to Blog Rank is…drrrruuummm roll… China Law Blog. And, it was not on the 2014 ABA Blawg 100. It was, however, listed in previous years. Often enough that in 2009 China Law Blog had hit the Blawg 100 “Hall of Fame” [select geo tab to view]. (It was interesting to learn that the ABA Blawg 100 FAQs say the Hall of Fame originated in 2012. Hmmm…)
- At least a handful of other currently Top Ranked blogs, which had also previously made the Blawg 100, have disappeared.
- On the suspected ABA Naughty List is Above The Law (Top Rank #2); now OFF the Blawg 100. Known to post unflattering things about lawyers, all of who pay an ABA membership fee and receive the ABA Journal, seems a likely cause to be dumped. But with over 37,000 RSS subscribers, 72,895 monthly visitors, and over 65,000 pages indexed by Google, who needs the ABA’s blessing. That’s some serious engagement!
- Others now OFF the Blawg 100 but ranked in the Top Rank 50 include:
- Talk Left (#3)
- SCOTUSblog (#5)
- Patently-O (#9)
- Slaw (#10)
- The Volokh Conspiracy (#11)
- OverLawyered (#16)
- My Shingle (#28)
- The BLT (#34)
- Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites (#35)
- And the winners? Well here are the blogs/blawgs that made both lists:
- Lowering the Bar (#5)
- Real Lawyers Have Blogs (#6)
- 3 Geeks and a Law Blog (#13).
- WSJ.com: Law Blog (#19)
- Lawyerist–the lawyering survival guide (#21)
- Technology & Marketing Law Blog (#22)
- a public defender (#26)
While I confess my eyes grew weary checking each list—now I know how Santa feels—and I may have missed one, as far as I could see only seven of the 100 nominated Blawgs performed at a significantly statistical rank.
What can we conclude from this exercise?
Congratulations to all those nominated to Blawg 100 for 2014—bragging rights included! Kudos to the Top Rank 50—they deserve a big deal of credit for consistently producing content that readers want to engage with, no matter what the ABA Blawg editors or peers think.
Getting listed is a boost any way you look at it—friendly competition or fact based performance. Anyone in search of the “best law blogs” will find gems on either list.
Want to know how well your blog compares to other blogs in your niche? Hop over to Blog Rank – blogmetrics.org, where you can search their index by your blog name or URL. If its not there, submit it.
[Late breaking editor’s note 12/4/14: This just in. If you’ve been snubbed from being listed, you can throw a tantrum and be in good company… Best Selling Author Throws Fit After Snub in Meaningless New York Times List. ]
I leave you with my 13 votes among the ABA Blawg 100…in alphabetical order. (A number of blogs I read and subscribe to were not on the ABA’s list this year, so I kind of feel that some of these “favorites” are not quite sincere. Anyway, here they are. Perhaps you’ll enjoy reading them, too)
Adam Smith, Esq. (A stimulating read on the business of law)
Appellate Squawk (A new addition that at first glance looks well written.)
Attorney at Work (Practical)
Eric Posner (New this year, following father’s footsteps)
iPhone J.D. (Essential)
Josh Blackman’s Blog (Irreverent)
Law Blog (Newsworthy)
The Legal Watercooler (A personal favorite)
Lowering the Bar (Funny)
On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog (Way too technical for my liking, but interesting niche.)
3 Geeks and a Law Blog (Insightful)