We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled content marketing discussions to talk about some important news for content providers – and make no mistake, law firms are content providers!
Yesterday, Apple presented a keynote that offered some of the most important updates for publishers in years – maybe not as exciting as a new iPhone or entirely new piece of technology, but for those of us in the content space (read: all of us), they are updates that we want to sit up and pay attention to.
The ILN’s Executive Director (and huge Apple fan), Alan Griffiths, sent me this article from Nieman Labs last night on the keynote, and there are two points that I’d like to pull out from it on the Two for Tuesdays for us to look at in the context of the legal industry, and what it may mean for us.
Point One: A New App Just Called “News”
Nieman Labs tells us:
The big news — and pitched as one of the biggest new features in iOS 9 — is an app called News. It’s ‘beautiful content from the world’s greatest sources, personalized for you,’ according to Apple vice president of product marketing Susan Prescott…It’s an awful lot like Flipboard — though the awesome power of default Apple distribution puts it in an entirely other league. This app will be on hundreds of millions of devices within 24 hours of its debut.”
And like most of what Apple produces, it’s really very snazzy (if you like that sort of thing, which I do):
At the moment, it sounds as though they’re bringing in approved publishers to submit their feeds by RSS to be included, so it will definitely be news-driven. But with the way content works today, and citizen journalism, it will only be a matter of time before Apple is allowing blogs – that means legal blogs – to submit to be publishers to its News app. Apple themselves say that “it’ll be open to every publisher, big or small, personal or professional.”
So, why does this matter?
- Apple’s News Format will allow you to create one “magazine” (let’s call it) which will sync across all of your Apple devices, for a slick and uniform experience. That means, no matter what device you’re using, you’ll be able to consume the content that you set up on another device. I like when they make things simple.
- Apple has reach – as we mentioned before, this will be on hundreds of millions of devices within 24 hours of launch. HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS. And yes, there are those apps that we’ve gotten with previous updates that no one has even looked at, but Apple fans are rabid. So if this is as slick and easy as they promise, they may win people over from Flipboard and other content delivery options to use this.
But here’s why it’s really important for lawyers, and it’s bigger than just Apple. Nieman Labs puts it perfectly:
It’s another sign that 2015 really is the Year of Distributed Content. It’s not just social platforms like Facebook and Snapchat that are interested in taking in your content — it’s also the device platforms they themselves squat on. There’s no guarantee Apple News will be a big hit; Google Currents, probably the closest analog up to now, was a flop. But the broader narrative is clear: Individual news apps and individual news brands aren’t the primary point of contact with news any more. They’re raw material, feeding into broader platforms. The loss of power for publishers in that exchange is obvious; the potential benefits remain mostly undiscovered.”
What that boils down to is this – good content is hugely important. People want it, but they want it where THEY want it. And that means that where it lives becomes less and less important to the end user. I like having my content here on Zen because it’s not going anywhere – it’s not a third party platform like LinkedIn or even Facebook.
But whether I put my content on Facebook, LinkedIn, my own blog, or even directly on my website is actually irrelevant to the consumers of my content – all they care about is the place where they read it. So as a producer of content that means that I need to make sure my content is portable (i.e. it’s not a PDF that can’t be picked up in an RSS feed and shipped to something like Apple’s News app), mobile, and accessible.
Are you and your firm focuses on the substance (the “what” of content) or are you focusing on the where?
Point Two: News Gets Embedded into the iPhone’s “Intelligence”
Apple is maybe a bit behind the eight ball in this area actually, but this shows an effort to catch up. The best way to explain this is to use Facebook and Google.
Have you noticed that when you search for something using Google on your desktop, and then you later log into Facebook, you’re suddenly seeing ads on the right hand side for that very product? It’s not a coincidence. Apple is looking to start to do more of the same in order to customize the user experience for news.
Nieman Labs tells us:
There are two key ways that news gets integrated into that intelligence. The first is through a new search API that apps will have access to. It’ll require work by app developers to take advantage of it, but if a user searches for ‘Syria,’ it should be able to surface a recent Syria article from The New York Times, The Guardian, or whatever other news apps she has installed on her phone. Not many people search for Syria on their phone, of course — but one could imagine that sort of search habit growing with time, particularly for breaking news.”
The second way is potentially powerful, but still unclear: News stories showing up automatically on the search screen, even with no search term entered.”
This has obvious appeal as a source of traffic, but it wasn’t clear from the demo how Apple picks that story (and others underneath it). Is it personalized? Tied to breaking news? We’ll have to wait for the documentation; the primary clue on Apple’s website is that it surfaces ‘local news that’s trending where you are,’ based on your location data. (The national HuffPost and CNN stories shown on the Apple site wouldn’t seem to qualify for that standard, though.)”
It’s difficult to tell at this stage how this will impact everyone, but we can draw some of our own conclusions – picture that at some point, an in-house counsel will be searching for relevant topics or even outside counsel on their mobile devices, and your blog posts or articles will pop up on their phone as relevant. There’s a driver for content production if I ever heard one.
And the second point is that there won’t even have to be search terms entered – no one is sure how those stories are sourced yet, or why, but it may be based on user data, job descriptions, previous history, etc. It would be hugely valuable – both to in-house counsel AND to outside counsel – to have the most relevant substantive content come up right on their mobile devices without having to know where to look for it. Imagine the possibilities.
We’re not there yet, but in my book, it’s as good a reason as any to start producing informative, engaging content NOW (in connection with a solid content strategy, of course). The more technology adapts, and the busier we get, the more the consumption and delivery methods of content become important – and coincidentally, the more essential good content itself also becomes.