January 28, 2013
OMG-ing About Content No Longer Being King
An interesting coincidence is occurring tomorrow. On the very same day, in very different locations, the nation’s two leading legal publishers are both staging day-long summit meetings, to which they have invited a variety of legal bloggers, journalists, industry analysts and "influencers". -- Bob Ambrogi in his LawSites post published the day before the January 16, 2013 events.
Indeed, very interesting. Bob does an excellent job reporting about the Thomson Reuters event at Thomson Reuters Unveils New Tools for Litigators, Corporate Counsel and Small Firms. LTN's technology editor, Sean Doherty, does the same for the LexisNexis event at LexisNexis Overture for LegalTech New York. Neither account was "influenced" as questioned in Kevin O'Keefe's Theatrical of the Absurd post about both events at Who's Influencing Who. (Kevin, if you ever do get invited to one of these events someday and decide to attend, note well they can be an "uninfluenced" grind unless you consider being "influenced" to make the go-to decision because you are desperately seeking a real hot pastrami sandwich or want to visit Diamond Jim's the night before or after the day-long event.)
One statement at the Thomson Reuters meeting struck a cord (update oops -- I meant to write nerve) with some. Quoting from Bob's post:
"We have decided that our long-term vision is not information, it is software tools, solutions, ways to enable attorneys to practice in a more cogent way," Mike Suchsland, president of Thomson Reuters Legal
Jean O'Grady found that to be jaw-dropping. See Thomson Reuters Legal Announces New Strategic Direction: Content no Longer King, Shift to Client Centric Platform. Blogging with tongue-in-cheek, one may reasonably conclude that Jason Wilson was "OMG-ing" this "revelation" at Legal publishing is dead! Long live software solutions! See also Jason's follow-up post, The Cupcake: A new editorial paradigm for legal publishing? because he asked and Mike Suchsland responded to Jason's follow-up request for clarification.
The same long-term vision statement could have been made at the LexisNexis event too. It is nothing more than recognizing what have been WEXIS strategic objectives for a fairly long time now. As Outsell's David Curle said many years ago, our major vendors view themselves as being players in the professional legal services marketplace. They do not and have not for quite sometime self-identified as "legal publishers" in the 21st century "New Normal".
So why the OMG-ing shock? Core legal content and online search have been commodized. The WEXIS research platforms (i.e., WestlawNext and Lexis Advance) next current gen user interfaces and user experiences are so similar that a user population can be switched from one platform to another with relative ease -- meaning the Rx has turned from a brand name to a generic equivalent.
When "new" features are added to today's platforms, some in-house corporate prophets confuse that with "innovations." They are nothing more than tweaks. And some of those tweaks are nothing more than decades old wine being poured into new bottles. Hell, those software architects who have been around longer than their corporate prophets know that -- let's just call it in-house "reverse" software engineering.
About the only real difference between WEXIS is that one vendor has built its platform for the ground up in-house and the other's platform has not -- meaning one vendor's platform development cost is higher (and more costly to the subscriber base) than the other.
"Long live software solutions!" I feel Jason Wilson's professional pain. That's because he is not in the "professional legal services" business, Jones-McClure is a legal publisher that produces high editorial content in the form of annotated federal and some state code deskbooks. Hell, I buy Jones-McClure's federal code titles for our little county law library instead of TR Legal ones and would buy them even if they cost more than TR Legal's over-priced titles. Frankly, I just wish there were more annotated topical code deskbooks to buy from Jones-McClure including Ohio-specific titles because I would cancel all my WEXIS annotated (read regurgitated analytical content) Ohio code handbooks (with or without "free" eBook companions).
However whether WEXIS explicitly states or implicitly demonstrates by roll-outs that productivity and business-of-law solutions is their primary business plan focus, that is not "news." What once were just upsell opportunities for sales reps from the law library institutional buyer perspective simply is maturing at WEXIS to the point of consolidating their already-on-the-market many tools offerings with the addition of new tools. This will eventually lead to suites of solutions as being the primary focus of the professional legal services vendors once known many years ago as "legal publishers".
Here about the only current difference between WEXIS is one vendor's next current gen user interface for productivity solutions is a familiar screen display. Whether or not that is an important selling point for end users remains to be seen. Eventually WEXIS users will launch into their WEXIS suites from a "My WEXIS" integrated solutions interface which links to desktop and mobile vendor-specific licensed productivity, business-of-law, database search and eBooks products and services based on user population, practice-centric specific plans acquired by institutional buyers.
What about law library institution buyers? Both LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters are following the same game plan. Core legal content and online search are commodities. Their platforms are generic. Commoditized "Content+Search" is just one among many "solutions" and no longer is the most important one while some offered productivity solutions do embed "content+search" inside them.
The indoctrination model is and increasingly will be addicting law school students to productivity solutions some that to repeat and repeat again and again offer commoditized "Content+Search" embedded within them. That's because legal skills training is "hot" in the legal academy now and WEXIS has (finally) realized that is the case.
The traditional "stuff" of law librarianship in this regard is not and has not been "king" because it is and has been nothing more than a pawn for years. That makes law librarians nothing more than pawns too. So where does all this leave those law librarians and their professional association who are in denial about this? In the dustbin of history unless law librarians and AALL decide they don't want to be watching the game from the bench.End Note. I seriously doubt Jean O'Grady is a law librarian in denial. Her post, however, does speak to not being influenced by Thomson Reuters, Kevin. It's not like any of the Land of 10,000 Invoices or Garden of Eden Big Apple attendees have either the Shower Drain or Knowledge Bubble Burst corporate logos tattooed on their butts. Well, at least none of non-WEXIS employed ones. [JH]
I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "traditional stuff" of law librarianship, which I guess is part of my confusion to that question about 'what will law librarians do now that content is no longer king?' Content may no longer be king, but does that mean that WEXIS/Bloomberg are holding less specialized content, making it less necessary to favor one or buy all to be inclusive? I'm unclear about the negativity of the 'content' problem I guess.
Also, how are librarians pawns in this new model? Is WEXIS actively duping librarians somehow or are we just losing out in a grander sense to law firm-related solutions?
If AALL and librarians need to 'get off the bench', what would that entail? Does CRIV need to step up somehow or does this go beyond technical services and into a new research/teaching paradigm?
Lots of questions from someone a bit newer to the field.
Posted by: Katherine | Feb 7, 2013 11:44:59 AM