We Are All Publishers Now

I’m chuffed (is that a peculiarly British expression?) to have been invited onboard Slaw as a contributor and will aim to provide a UK slant to some of the the core issues Slaw addresses surrounding legal information in the digital age.

I have been fortunate to have been involved at first hand in the entire modern publishing revolution. When I first started out in law publishing, authors produced copy on manual typewriters, editors used pens and literal cut and paste to hack it into shape, typesetters set the copy in movable lead type or “slugs” and made it up to page in print trays, and then the presses rolled. So there had not been much progress in 500 years!

Today I’m writing this in the cloud and when I hit “Publish” it will automatically be styled, made up to page and published instantly on the web to a global audience (blush!); it will be distributed automatically to subscribers via RSS and some of those subscribers will perhaps (automatically again) repurpose and republish it elsewhere. That’s incredible publishing efficiency: all I will do to achieve it is push a button!

Publishing is concerned with more than the production and distribution processes; it is about researching market needs, developing products and services to meet those needs and bringing those “to market”. But the web – Web 2.0 in particular – has rewritten all the rules. All aspects of the publishing process are now more accessible to more people and that has redefined markets and the relationships between publishers and users. With Web 2.0 we are all publishers now. That poses substantial challenges for the “traditional” publishers, who are no longer master of all they survey and must now to a large extent reinvent themselves to maintain their leading position, and it offers substantial opportunities to the rest of us who carry with us little baggage.

It’s been interesting and increasingly exciting to be on the ride for the last 30 years, but the fun is only just beginning.


  1. Firstly – welcome Nick. We’re chuffed that you’re aboard the good ship Slaw.
    As for chuffed, I always thought that the Australians used the phrase more , at least when one sees how infrequently the term comes up on Canlii – only once in a Bailii case..
    The phrase is well debated in Alberta in the Cochrane Eagle and in Parry Sound.
    We even have a Finance Minister (the equivalent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer) who’s pretty chuffed.
    Just don’t use the phrase with the American cousins.

  2. The one of the biggest impacts of self-publishing is that there is often a lack of peer review which would have otherwise gone into research posted online.

    Google attempts to address this with their PageRank technology. It seeks to reward authors who establish credibility by noting how many people link back to a page after it appears online. I’m sure Google isn’t the only one to recognize this, I will be curious to see what other technologies emerge to address this issue.

  3. Welcome, Nick! Glad to have you join us.


  4. To follow from Ryan’s point, I think that the ease of self-publishing makes it essential for instructors, librarians, trainers and mentors to reinforce the principles of information literacy with students, young associates and new Web 2.0 enthusiasts of any age.

    It’s a fine line, though – encouraging people to embrace the new technology, while reminding them that now, more than ever, you have to consider the source (and how it got there).

  5. Welcome, Nick. Your contributions look to be interesting indeed.

    And we Canadian Corrie-watchers are chuffed as well.

  6. Didn’t Thomas the tank engine chuff down the busy railroad? :)

  7. Our last podcast was with Ari Kaplan, who shares tips in his book on how can become rainmakers.

    Self-publishing online is the great democratizer. Students willing to hit the ground running can easily share and respond to other people’s ideas.

    Kaplan says that students don’t have the same restrictions that most lawyers have in seeking approval, and that they should take advantage of this opportunity to experiment and learn the technology.

    Peer-reviewed publications still have their place in academia. But social media is essential for building relationships and keeping abreast of changes in the field. The most popular law blogs probably have a larger readership than most print legal news publications.

  8. Thanks for the welcome all.

    Ryan/Wendy, yes, authority and authenticity are big issues. If we are all publishers now, then it follows there are lots of ineffective and incompetent ones.

    I’m all for anyone having a go, but the message from those of us that evangelise law blogging and Law 2.0 publishing in general is “be professional”. Learn how to do it right, otherwise you are just adding to the noise.

    So far as user education is concerned, I can do no better than point you to Jakob Nielsen’s suggestion for teaching Life-long Computer Skills