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Automated news production can be an effective marketing tool for your law firm

One of the keys to building a superior law firm website is presenting high-quality content, and it is no coincidence that this is also an important factor in optimizing the firm’s website for search engines. The written content must be of the highest quality and unassailable accuracy, especially content that addresses questions that prospective clients may have about legal matters. But what about news, blog posts and social media updates? These need to be accurate and appropriate as well, of course, but it is also no secret that quantity matters. If your firm has a news or blog section, a Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr account, they need to be updated frequently, so that users see fresh content and search engines detect that your firm’s website is active and current. As the firm’s marketing team manages these tasks, it is natural to ask how efficiency can be improved. Enter robo-journalism.

No, it is not yet time to replace all writers and editors with robots. But there are some new tools that can help them quickly present readers with news from a variety of sources, and law firms should be aware of how these tools work. Participating in news aggregation sites, whether as an editor or contributor, can be an important way for firms to present themselves as experts and build the website links that are a key factor in search engine optimization.

News aggregation sites like the Huffington Post were the first to capitalize on the importance of how news is delivered on the internet, often earning more clicks than the New York Times for a story that HuffPo merely excerpted and repackaged. Today, many people turn to their Facebook or Twitter feed for news headlines, sometimes clicking through to read full articles, and sometimes not.

Paper.li is a new product that automates the repackaging of news. If you or your firm are active on Twitter, you may have already discovered that you are an inadvertent contributor to one of the many online newspapers that have been created using the tool.

Paper.li creates an online newspaper for you in a snap, and can be helpful even for personal use. The interface allows you to easily choose Twitter accounts and website news feeds to follow. Then, with the press of a button, the latest relevant news is aggregated into an online newspaper with a clean, readable design. Give your paper a name, and you have created a not-bad-looking online news source, that automatically updates on a daily basis.

Each article is actually a hotlink to the real news source, with a headline, photo and brief excerpt presented on your site. A typical edition of your newspaper may include 70 linked articles in 10 or more sections. If you do not like the selection of news presented, you can begin to tinker, adding news sources, blacklisting others and moving articles around on the page using the easy drag-and-drop interface.

Of course, in addition to its use as a personal news organizer, law firms will want to know how useful Paper.li may be for marketing. There are two main ways that law firms can use Paper.li for such purposes: as editors and as contributors.

Should your firm publish an online newspaper?
Let’s look at costs and benefits. With Paper.li, a law firm may establish itself as editor of a website with the potential to grow into a trusted news source, with the firm’s branding and links to the firm’s main site. The higher the quality of the news selected, the more people will subscribe, building the firm’s online profile. Your firm may choose to promote content by your own attorneys, helping position them as experts in their field.

Paper.li has a free option, and a set-it-and-forget-it mode, which will publish a new daily or twice-weekly edition of your newspaper without you doing anything, so hypothetically the cost of using Paper.li could be zero. However, this is not a viable option for a law firm. For $9 a month, the Pro features give you finer control over content and a custom domain name, necessary for any serious marketing effort. Also, setting it and forgetting it is not advisable. Robo-journalism can lead to some odd quirks, and your firm does not want to find itself publishing inappropriate or offensive content because of another Twitter user’s hashtag mishap.

At a minimum, a member of the firm’s marketing team would need to look over a draft version of each edition of your firm’s online newspaper before publication; more effort put into selecting news sources will result in a better product, more likely to attract readers and clients. What Paper.li does do is provide the firm’s marketing team with a very efficient news-gathering tool, which can greatly increase efficiency.

However, even if your firm decides against publishing an online newspaper, Paper.li can aid in your marketing efforts. In fact, it may have already done so. If your firm’s attorneys and marketing team are active on Twitter and Facebook, often posting links to articles on the firm’s website, then you may already have been published on a Paper.li site. Each hotlinked article contains a link to the original source of the article as well as a link to the Twitter user whose feed it was scraped from.

As news aggregation sites become more and more popular, law firms with an active presence on social media will be featured prominently. Search engines measure those links, and news readers can become potential clients, so search engine optimization strategies and the reliable marketing techniques of getting the firm’s name out there work hand-in-hand.

About Author

Brendan Conley is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine and legal content developer for law firms throughout the United States.

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