Article – Explosion in Mobile Audiences and What It Means For Law Firms

Kevin O’Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs recently published an article, “Explosion in Mobile Audiences and What it Means for Law Firms.”

The article first reviews some statistics from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism report on the future of mobile news. One such data point is that half of US adults currently own a smartphone or tablet, significantly more than a year ago. Consistent with that trend, Mr. O’Keefe remarks that a law firm’s client base, whether consumers or corporate, are increasingly likely to own tablets or smartphones. Furthermore, owners of these devices are likely to use them to read news and similar substantive content — the Pew report indicates that 64% of tablet owners and 62% of smartphone owners use their mobile devices for news at least weekly.

Based on the report, Mr. O’Keefe offers the following observation: “Smartphone and tablet users provide law firms a more engaged readership and a readership which is more likely to share [law firm] content across social media.” Thus, not only will readers read your materials, but also they will also share it with others.

After reviewing the statistics, he proceeds to offer a few tips to law firms. Given the nature of the Pew study (i.e., its focus on news) and the core of Mr. O’Keefe’s own business (i.e., legal blogs), he offers tips from a news-sharing perspective. (Indeed, there are a range of opportunities for law firm mobile efforts beyond news, relating to recruiting, events, sponsorships, resources, tools, and even profile-raising games).

He recommends that all law firm “content needs to be mobile enabled” — that is, make it easy for mobile users to read the firm’s content (e.g. avoid PDFs, use tools built-in to WordPress if that is the platform hosting your website or blog). As more people use mobile devices to consume professional content, ensuring the accessibility of your content is important. In addition to content, Mr. O’Keefe encourages firms to get their attorneys and professionals to learn about the technologies involved in pushing content/news to mobile devices (e.g., RSS, Twitter) as well as news consolidation apps for consuming and sharing content (e.g., RSS Readers, Zite, Flipboard, Facebook, Google+).

While such recommends make sense to us, Law Firm Mobile respectfully disagrees with another of his recommendations — that law firms simply should not build native apps. Rather, it is our recommendation that firms consider the costs and benefits of both mobile applications and mobile compatible websites to further marketing and business development goals.

To some extent Mr. O’Keefe’s recommendation against apps appears to be based on his thinking behind how mobile users read “news”. In particular, he writes about the following metrics:

  • 60% of tablet news users mainly use the browser to get news on their tablet, and
  • “Only” 23% of these users get news mostly through apps.

In terms of critiquing his reliance on these statistics for his conclusion, first, at this stage, we are not aware of any market research indicating that corporate in-house read legal content in the same way as general or business news. Second, plenty of news organizations have created news apps for their content (e.g., Bloomberg, CNN, WSJ, Thompson Reuters); one would think that those experienced news organizations have a basis for creating apps rather than relying only on browser-based platforms. Third, 23% of individuals using apps is still a significant numbers of users. Last, Mr. O’Keefe assumes that those who are reading news with apps are using news aggregation apps (e.g. Zite or Flipboard). We are a fan of such apps and use them ourselves, but we still also use other sources for reading news. In any event, there does not appear to be data from the Pew study that breaks down what type of apps are used by those 23% of users.

Even with our disagreement with Mr. O’Keefe on apps, we appreciate his bringing to our attention important data on the impact of mobile phones and tablets.