SCOTUSBlog Changes Their Community Feature

December 1st, 2011

Last month, in response to SCOTUSBlog’s changes, I wrote:

I love SCOTUSBlog. Their resources are vast and thorough. Frankly, I don’t read much of their new content, because well, there is just too much! I would be curious to compare the traffic for their live broadcast of opinion hand-down days, and maybe Lyle’s summaries of oral arguments that are posted first, with all of their other content–I’m talking about the symposia and special features. I’d wager the former is the vast majority, and the latter barely gets a trickle.

Turns out I was on the right track. Yesterday Tom Goldstein announced a change to their community feature due to lack of interest:

Roughly two months ago, we introduced our new Community feature to provide readers with a forum to discuss issues relating to the Court.  After six weeks, we decided to step back and evaluate how it was working and could be improved.

The original design involved a new topic each day.  Except on a few topics of broad interest (for example, the health care litigation) the great majority of comments were those that we solicited.  We generally received between 800 and 1500 “hits” on these discussions each day.

In general, the quality of the comments was very good.  It was also respectful.  Our principal concern that the discussion would degenerate into classic, nasty Internet fights did not come to pass at all.  The number of hits was reasonable for a new feature.

On the other hand, the breadth of participation was very narrow.  Few readers posted their own comments.

Also, this structure was very resource intensive.  A different member of the blog team would have a topic each week, and generating “seed” comments could be time consuming.

So few people visited this feature, the only people who commented were those who were solicited, and it took a lot of resources to maintain. By way of comparison, at its peak my measly blog was getting over 1,000 hits a day. On some days I hit 10,000 hits a day. That’s about what I thought, and what I observed. With the exception of the liveblogs of opinion hand-downs, and Lyle’s reports of the arguments, in addition to the case files, most of SCOTUSBlog is largely superfluous. The best legal bloggers blog at their blogs for analyses (the roundups capture most of these). But trying to artificially create a site for legal discourse beyond their core competencies has suffered.

My aim on projects is to keep the focus as narrow and linked to my core competencies as possible.