Divide to Conquer: Content Strategy for a Distracted Digital Age

There are two somewhat related media consumption patterns happening right now that most law firms haven’t given much thought to yet – mobility and distraction. You can use these developments to your advantage by building modular content that can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways to help you get more mileage out of your lawyers’ substantive writing and create a more unique online presence for your firm. Let me explain. . .

The first pattern is the ongoing shift to consuming content on mobile devices – by which I mean phones and tablets (and by all that is holy, please not watches. I had a Casio calculator watch in 1981. I don’t need to go there again). While some might be inclined to gloss over the shift to mobile as not applying to the serious business of law, that would be a mistake.

The reality is that you are using your phone or iPad to read legal information more than ever. So are your clients. As Darth Vader put it to Luke in the Empire Strikes Back, “Search your feelings. You know it to be true.” On the law firm sites my own agency manages (i.e. for which I have first-hand access to Google Analytics data) we typically see mobile usage in the 24-40% range and those numbers are steadily increasing. That range is also exactly in line with figures cited by Lexblog’s Kevin O’Keefe in a recent blog post pointing to the importance of mobile and social for legal digital media. Google has also announced that they will be adjusting their search-ranking algorithm in April 2015 to improve rankings for mobile-optimized websites. Ignoring mobile strategies for your legal marketing is increasingly going to put you at a disadvantage.

The second trend is our audience’s ever-decreasing attention span in an era of information overload. To use another movie reference, when it comes to producing content for clients (seminars, papers, case commentaries, etc.) lawyers have always been partial to the Director’s Cut Box Set (replete with 18 never-before-seen hours of cut scenes, alternate endings, interviews with the costume designer and lighting crew, and much more!). Meanwhile, clients have increasingly taken to skimming trailers, glancing at the legal version of a Rotten Tomatoes score or making a preliminary assessment on the basis of your movie poster.

To summarize then, clients are increasingly on their phones, distracted, and less inclined to read the long-form content your lawyers are most inclined to produce. What to do? I suggest you look for ways to break that long-form piece apart or produce short companion pieces (think video introductions, info-graphics, short slideshare presentations) that essentially serve as teasers for the longer piece. Indeed, some of that may even be parsed down a further level to a twitter-worthy pull-quote or a single compelling image for sharing on social media. A recent blog post by Digital Tutors describes these extremely small, atomized elements as “micro-content” and true to form they have a nice info-graphic illustrating a parted-out approach to content creation.

Taking such an approach makes considerable sense for law firms. First, it leverages the considerable time and effort that goes into creating original long form content and pushes the reach of that material further. Second, it would enable law firms to do a better job of navigating social media channels with original, distinctive content that is relevant to clients and appropriate to the medium, rather than simply regurgitating new partner announcements and other generic content from the firm’s website newsfeed. And lastly, smaller format video intros and the like are the kind of things that are more likely to be consumed on one’s phone, where clients are increasingly spending their time and your competitor’s content isn’t.

By reformatting your legal marketing content into smaller elements that better match your clients’ information consumption patterns, you position yourself to succeed. Granted, turning one piece of content into five or six isn’t going to help solve the larger problem of information overload, but it does increase the likelihood that your firm’s message is the one that gets through.


  1. Seems like 30% is about the current normal for mobile traffic. The US government has a cool “dashboard” to show the devices and platforms people are using to access government websites.

  2. Very good advice. In addition to reformatting into smaller pieces, some lawyers would also benefit from reformatting into different types (i.e. visual, audio, video, etc).

  3. No doubt excellent advice, so that content can be read on phones and tablets.

    However, I am completely unable to understand the appeal of videos to convey information other than demonstrations of manual skills (bike repair, knitting, maybe cooking, what have you). I would much rather spend one minute reading something than five minutes listening to someone tell me the same thing – and I don’t need to watch the person who wrote it read it.

    And furthermore … I can’t access YouTube at work, or Facebook (no doubt because they are time sinks), so if video is being used to tell me something important, I am necessarily out of the loop, unless it’s so important I need to watch at home.

  4. John – fair enough if videos are not your thing. People hold different media consumption styles in the same way that people learn differently. Many lawyers are heavily text-oriented as compared to the rest of the population, (a point reinforced in this beautiful text-Leviathan that is Slaw). A key mistake that lawyers and firms frequently make with their online presence though is to extrapolate their personal world views onto the markets they serve. Because you are disinclined to video and don’t have social media access at work doesn’t necessarily mean the same is true for the audience you are trying to reach. I’ve always been struck by this New York Times article about a generation growing up behind us that seeks out information first on YouTube, and then on Google only as a secondary fall-back: Now consider that this article dates to 2009 (!) and consider how much more ubiquitous mobile and video have both become since then.

    Simply stated, I believe one needs to design for multiple media consumption styles in order to effectively reach wider audiences.

  5. I do not disagree with the basic premise, which is that effective marketing means being accessible in all the media in which one’s target audience may be looking for (your) content. I just find acquiring information that way a massive waste of time – but if I were marketing, I would have to produce some anyway, and appear enthusiastic about it!

  6. Law is pretty dry.

    For marketing in specialized practice areas to big to even medium sized corporate clients (ie. a big developer for commercial buildings or residential buildings), something visual as a short videoclip as an intro., that highlights a major legislative change or just a concept, and compliance requirements might be a good segue, especially if the compliance is technical and harder for big corporate decision-makers to comprehend.

    Some of us have seen, large municipalities use short videoclips with dynamic cartoon drawing to convey very vague huge concepts ie. “Green Plan” or the budget to their citizens.

    Why can’t law firms use a friendly videoclip….especially if they might be doing business in countries outside of Canada? I can’t imagine how certain key concepts must be planted in decision-makers’ heads, when a country might be very different than Canada for certain practices.

    (Meanwhile as a document manager for a large joint venture construction project, I had to explain to foreign ex-pat staff not to send me resumes, WCB…because of our privacy laws..)