Comparing the Top-Ranked Law Blogs to the ABA Blawg 100

Jayne Navarre has an interesting post at her Virtual Marketing Officer blog in which she looks at how the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 list lines up with the top-ranked law blogs generally. Her post underscores the vagaries in “top” lists of any kind. But her primary premise seems to be that the Blawg 100 list omits several outstanding law blogs, and that those blogs’ high rankings using other metrics validates her position that they should be included in the Blawg 100.

Sadly though, this year I note that a number of really outstanding law blogs, which had made prior years top 100, are now off the list. Out with the old, in with the new. Got me thinking. Have these once power house blogs been diminished? To cure my intellectual curiosity, I set off to find out: Does the Blawg 100 stack up to the top ranked law blogs?

To make her comparison, Jayne turns to the BlogRank list of the top 50 law blogs. This list ranks blogs using more than 20 different factors, including RSS subscribers; incoming links; Compete, Alexa and Technorati ranking; and popularity on social networking sites.

Jayne finds that 11 of the BlogRank top-ranked blogs were formerly on the Blawg 100 list but have now “disappeared.” She notes, for example, that the popular blog Above the Law — which is ranked #2 on the BlogRank list — is now off the Blawg 100. She suggests that this is because the blog is on the ABA Naughty List.

On the suspected ABA Naughty List is Above The Law (Top Rank #2); now OFF the Blawg 100. Known to post unflattering things about lawyers, all of who pay an ABA membership fee and receive the ABA Journal, seems a likely cause to be dumped. But with over 37,000 RSS subscribers, 72,895 monthly visitors, and over 65,000 pages indexed by Google, who needs the ABA’s blessing. That’s some serious engagement!

My blog, too, is among those that Jayne lists as being included on the BlogRank Top 50 list but dumped from the Blawg 100 list.

Mistaken Premises

The comparison is an interesting exercise, but Jayne’s conclusions result from what I believe are two mistaken premises on her part.

Her first mistaken premise is that these blogs have been “dumped” or “disappeared.” She lists 11 blogs from the BlogRank list that she suggests have been dumped:

  1. China Law Blog.
  2. Above the Law.
  3. Talk Left.
  4. SCOTUSblog.
  5. Patently-O.
  6. Slaw.
  7. The Volokh Conspiracy.
  8. Overlawyered.
  9. My Shingle.
  10. The BLT.
  11. Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.

In fact, however, rather than dump those blogs, the ABA Journal elevated all but three of them to its Hall of Fame. And once a blog is inaugurated into the Hall of Fame, it is no longer eligible for inclusion on the Blawg 100 list. The ABA Journal describes is this way: “These are Blawg 100 honorees who we’ve decided will always be among our favorites and so deserve their own listing.”

Of the 11 she lists as having been dumped, eight are in the Hall of Fame:

  1. China Law Blog.
  2. Above the Law.
  3. SCOTUSblog.
  4. Patently-O.
  5. The Volokh Conspiracy.
  6. Overlawyered.
  7. My Shingle.
  8. Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.

In other words, the Hall of Fame is a way of getting perpetual winners off the list to make room for new faces. That makes a lot of sense to me.

The second mistaken premise is that these two lists should be apples-to-apples comparisons. They are not and they shouldn’t be.

The BlogRank site is an algorithmic ranking based on various numerical factors. These include RSS subscriptions, site visitors, number of pages indexed by Google, and rankings by other sites. It is, in other words, a score based largely on traffic.

The Blawg 100, by contrast, is a list compiled by the editorial staff of the ABA Journal. By design, it is subjective. Here is how they explain it:

The Blawg 100 is compiled by ABA Journal staff and is largely a favorites list. We also ask for nominations from our readers through the Blawg Amici process. Most are blawgs that are regularly updated, contain original content, opinion and/or analysis. Many are also on our radar because the Journal staff finds the posts useful in terms of tipping us off to news or generating posts we consider worthy of coverage.

Note what they said: This is “largely a favorites list.” It is not meant to be an absolute determination of the “top” law blogs. It is a selection of blogs that the ABA Journal staff likes or finds helpful.

To my mind, the value of the Blawg 100 is precisely its subjective nature. Every year, the Blawg 100 list introduces me to blogs I’ve never read before or sometimes even heard of before. That’s a good thing. There is not a blog on the BlogRank list that I have not heard of. Indeed, I follow most of them. But I appreciate that the Blawg 100 helps me discover blogs that I hadn’t heard of — blogs of high quality and deserving of recognition.