Help! Blawger Identity Crisis

I started this blog in November 2002. My plan was to use it to post news and reviews of Web sites of interest to the legal profession. I had just published the first edition of my book, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web, and saw blogging as a way to keep myself and my readers up to date. In 2004, I launched a second blog, Media Law, devoted to legal issues involving the news media and freedom of the press.

Twin blogs kept me busy enough, but then in 2005, I began to cohost a weekly podcast, Lawyer2Lawyer with California lawyer J. Craig Williams, and we continue to record a program virtually every week. A year after that, I began to coauthor’s Legal Blog Watch, where I alternate days posting with Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle.

Meanwhile, as all this has been happening, the distinctions between my LawSites and Media Law blogs have become less clear to me, particularly as the distinctions between traditional media and new media have faded.

Long story short: I have two blogs that really should be one, given both the topics I want to write about and the time I have to blog. But I am unable to decide how best to go about this and would welcome the advice of my readers. My goals are to:

  • Have one blog where I can write about a broader range of topics, including media, the Internet, technology and marketing.
  • Maintain as much of each blog’s archives as possible.
  • Maintain as much of each blog’s readership as possible, including those who subscribe via RSS.
  • Maintain some degree of the “brand recognition” each blog has.

As I see it, my best options are:

  1. Keep LawSites as my primary blog, but rename it to better reflect a wider range of topics. This has the advantage of preserving LawSite’s older and more extensive archive. The downside is possibly losing Media Law’s archive and at least some of its subscribers. If it is dormant long enough, I presume Blogger will delete it.
  2. Keep LawSites without renaming it. This has the advantage of preserving all of the elements of one blog, but the disadvantage of preserving a name that limits its theme.
  3. Start a whole new blog, combining the themes of LawSites and Media Law. My fear here is even greater loss of subscribers and readers and, again, potential total loss of archives.
  4. Do nothing and maintain the status quo.
  5. Throw my laptop in the trash and focus on finding the meaning of life.

Am I missing something? Is there a way to somehow rename the blog, merge both sets of archives into one, and retain all RSS subscribers? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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  • Bob,

    You leave unstated the elephant in the room – how much Legal Blog Watch takes away from the other blogs (and time to work on them). I’m not sure how you can move the other two blogs forward (or decide what to do about them) unless you address the role Legal Blog Watch plays in the equation.

    My personal opinion: It’s an either/or scenario. If you stay with Legal Blog Watch, option 5 probably makes the most sense, but #4 is the path of least resistance. If you leave Legal Blog Watch, lots of options are open.

    Other thoughts. You can always save the archives as a PDF and make it available in that fashion. I’m not sure that LawSites and Media Law will merge easily into one blog, so #3 will be hard, even though it might well take you to where you want to go.

    There’s a lot to be said for #4.

    Dennis Kennedy

  • First, I would recommend you ditch both Blogger blogs, and import your archives into Hosted (or even a non-hosted) WordPress blog.

    This gives you more flexibility in both design, functionality (via plug-ins) and whatever future moves you might need to make with respect to your blogging properties.

    Next, use Feedburner to manage your feeds, and post links to your Feedburner feeds. This allows you to access stats about your subscribers (not just numbers) and to leverage your feed with ads.

    I also recommend purchasing a professional theme and hiring a wordpress designer to help you implement these changes. You have real traffic, and you need a pro-look. It might not be worth it to a hobbyist, but you’re more than a hobbyist.

    As a lawyer and a tech dork, I enjoy your blog immensely, and I’m happy to help you anyway I can.

  • Bob, I’d second the idea of creating a new hosted blog, and importing your two other blogs off of the blogger platform. You’ve got way too much invested not to have full ownership & control of your blog content.

    I’d also second the use of feedburner to manage your feeds. You could do this now, mixing your two blogs into one feed, and transitioning your RSS readers before making any kind of blog swap. Controlling the RSS front end will give you more choices, and the ability to change the source feed going forward. (whatever you decide to do…)

    Generally, I think your best route is to start a new blog. If you had a limited readership, I’d be scared of reader & link loss; but your profile will carry you through a migration.

    Just be sure to make a splash when you do it. 🙂

  • Hi, Bob!

    Screw the self-hosted WordPress option. Yes, WordPress comes with great plugins, yes it offers lots of functionality, yes, you have full control over your site when you self-host with WordPress. But WordPress blogs are much higher maintenance than people would let on.

    Unless you’re willing to hire someone else to set it up (including creating a theme to “skin” your blog) and maintain it (which includes frequent back-ups of data, upgrading as needed to the latest version of WordPress, and restoring your blog in the event you get hacked like I did two months ago), I’m not sure that WordPress is worth it. (Can you tell that I’m a disgruntled WordPress user? Feel free to call, and I’d be happy to talk with you offline about my experiences the past six months with WordPress, especially the recent hack. It hasn’t been easy — and I’m someone who is very comfortable messing around behind the curtains with code.)

    Blogger has its problems and its detractors, but it’s easy to use and dependable in its own quirky way. There’s a lot to be said for Option 4. (Option 5 has its appeal, too, but in your shoes I’d be jonesing without a laptop.)

    If the name is an issue, you can always gradually change the name to something else — incorporate a new name into the existing one and gradually transition over to the new one. The suggestions about feedburner are excellent and would smooth out any transition.

    No matter what, Bob, given your devoted following, it is unlikely that you would lose many of your readers regardless of the route you take. Count on me to come along for the ride.

    Good luck!

  • M. Sean Fosmire

    Stephen Bainbridge encountered this problem and then crafted a solution. He tried splitting his weblog into three, each addressing a separate topic, then found within a short time that balancing three was unwieldy. He recombined them into one, but set them up in columns so that there was still a separate identity for each.

  • Rav

    I disagree with Diane – go WordPress. I admit I’ve never been hacked, but the rest isn’t really a problem – updating doesn’t take too long and you really don’t need to do it for every release. I’m sure you know a tech-savvy youngster (or oldster, for that matter) who could take care of such maintenance for a small fee/pizza/whatever.

    The issue with seperate brands is key. If you no longer feel the two are entirely separate, then there are various options (if you go WordPress) to combine them but maintain some separation. For example, you could have the two sides as categories and give each a different header image. This stuff isn’t too hard to set up. The advantage of this is you can add further categories as you go and not be limited to the two themes.

    You can easily copy all the old traffic into the new site (and the new categories). Even the blogroll can be imported I think. And you could offer category feeds and an overall feed.

    Getting the RSS traffic over isn’t easy. But if you post at the old locations, clearly saying that it’s moved and linking to the new feed address, people should pick up on it, at least regular readers. Feedburner is a good idea going forward but I don’t know if it will help retain subscribers through the move – in my experience when you add feedburner there’s no massive incentive for existing subscribers to switch to the new feed.