Raising the bar

ALM (formerly American Lawyer Media) recently announced that it had created 14 different dedicated mobile sites. Writing at Folio:, Michael Rondon noted:

While ALM considered a responsive design solution, they felt dedicated mobile sites were preferable, given their goals.

Those goals include seamless support for smartphone devices as well as the ability to deliver advertising messages in a way that works on those devices. In a statement, ALM’s senior vice president of digital media, Jeffrey Litvack, described responsive design as a solution that would have forced the publisher to compromise on its objectives.

Critical mass plays a role here. In professional settings, speed, search and effective presentation of content are core components of trial and reuse. With 90% of lawyers already using smartphones to access information, ALM is able to focus on that platform to build dedicated mobile sites.

In March, the publisher had optimized a set of newsletters for mobile delivery, a move that boosted open rates by 60%. Although the baseline performance isn’t disclosed, it’s hard to argue against a healthy improvement in open rates.

I’ve noted before that firms like ALM compete effectively in markets also served by not-for-profit organizations like the American Bar Association. While there is a value in maintaining professional ties, it also seems clear that content dissemination (a core component of many professional associations) is evolving to embrace both new forms and new platforms.

This can be good news for associations. Last year, ASAE moved to a daily schedule for its e-mail blasts, broadening the topics it covered. I’ve found myself reading and referring to more ASAE content, in turn increasing the value I place on my membership in the organization.

As the topic mix has expanded, ASAE reports have at times covered companies and issues with relevance outside of the association arena. A recent example inspired a post about the MPAA’s evolving approach to piracy. Likely there will be more examples this year.

Certainly, associations can compete against for-profit firms. If there’s a lesson here, it may be that the ALM move illustrates how the bar (small pun intended) is always being raised.

A bit of disclosure: I consulted with the American Bar Association in 2009 and early 2010; the content of this post relies only on my understanding of information in the public domain. I have been a member of ASAE since 2007, attending their annual meeting and some more focused events.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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