Thursday, April 21, 2011

American Lawyer Media (ALM) VP Responds to "Dewey B" Strategy Questions

I am posting the letter I received from ALM, Vice President, Sara Diamond in response to the questions posed in April 18th post: The ALM-Lexis Deal: Stop Hyperventilating and Consider Some Action Items

Dear Ms. O’Grady,

ALM has, as you noted, been making a concerted effort to reach out to the library community as we define, refine, and implement our digital strategy. We appreciate the opportunity to address the community regarding our strategy and encourage you and your colleagues to contact us with any questions or concerns in the future. One of the items we’re currently contemplating is how best to stay in constant, regular touch with the needs and opinions of the librarian community. We, like most publishers, need to work on that and have prioritized it as a goal. Any input you have on how best to accomplish this would be greatly appreciated.

In response to your questions, please note the following:

• ALM certainly has a longer-term goal of creating a robust, integrated platform that will include news, newsletters, treatises, research products, and more. The first foray in this developmental direction was the integration of several core ALM data sets into a common platform for the New York SmartLitigator, a new regionally-focused research product launched last September. Our future plan includes giving librarians and attorneys the choice of accessing our content either from an integrated ALM platform or, as of May 1st, from LexisNexis. Some of the necessary initial steps we’re undergoing as we move toward this goal of integration include moving our regional Smart Litigator, Law Journal Press Online, and Law Journal Newsletters to a common platform, digitizing all content, standardizing content types across divisions and regions, applying common taxonomies to content, and storing all content in a common content repository. We’ll continue to move aggressively to refine and implement our strategy in the months ahead.

• ALM will be upgrading its news platform to provide custom alerts. The first custom alert will occur with the re-launch of the New York Law Journal website later this year. We will include other custom alerts as we update web sites for other publications. This is certainly on our priority list for development given comments we have heard from librarians and attorneys regarding the usefulness of this feature.

• The individual news publications (e.g., New York Law Journal) will retain only a rolling six-month article archive going forward. Archives beyond the six month period will reside on Lexis. That said, the regional SmartLitigator products being developed by ALM will also include full news archives. The first of these regional products, the recently launched New York SmartLitigator, includes an archive of New York Law Journal articles going back eight years. Similar archives will be available in other regional SmartLitigator products going forward, with the New Jersey Smart Litigator and Pennsylvania Smart Litigator launching later this year.

Librarian questions, concerns, and critiques of our policies are always valuable in helping us shape our plans for the future. We thank you for your interest in ALM and appreciate your comments.

Sincerely yours,

Sara Diamond

Group VP, Substantive Law


Monday, April 18, 2011

The ALM - Lexis Deal: Stop Hyperventilating and Consider A Few Action Items

We have been through drills like this before and this is no doubt, not the last content swap between Lexis and  Westlaw platforms we will face.

While waiting for some word from Lexis on how ALM content will be priced, I began conducting some internal due diligence. These items might be of interest to others.

Action Items
  • Check your firm's most recent Westlaw contract  and  review for a "material change" clause or other clauses regarding the removal of content. 
  • Check your firms' most recent Lexis contract for any language addressing content added during the contact period. However – since this is clearly 3rd party content – I see an "exclusion' coming on. 
  • Request a usage report from Westlaw with an analysis of the last 6 or 12 months of ALM usage from 
    • Identify the ALM content being used (it may surprise you)
    • Identify the users
    • Look at the value of the useas an overall percentage of all Westlaw use. 
The magnitude of the usage or lack thereof will inform upcoming negotiations.

Managing ALM excluded content after it is on Lexis. Peter Charkalis from Onelog reports that Onelog's next upgrade can provide custom warning screens when researchers try to access excluded content from a system such as Lexis or Westlaw. This custom message can direct resarchers to an alternative platform e.g. the LJP treatises or ALM news rather than using the content on Lexis.

Reviewing the ALM usage report triggered a series of questions regarding ALM's digital strategy which I have outlined below in an open letter to ALM. Although we may not have answers immediately - just posing these questions may assist library leaders in assessing the addition of ALM content to their Lexis contracts.

  Dear ALM Executives,

 Let me first state how much I appreciate your recent efforts to reach out to many "thought leaders" in the library community to discuss a variety of digital strategy issues. I was willing to sit back and wait for ALM's strategy to unfold but the recent sudden switch of ALM content from Westlaw to Lexis compels an airing of the unsettled ALM issues.

ALM currently has at least 3 digital platforms: the online research platform, the ALM media news platform and the Law Journal Press treatise platform. These all seem to function as stand alone platforms and don't integrate with each other..

So here are my questions.

  •  Does ALM plan to have a robust, integrated platform including ALM news sources, newsletters, treatises and research analytics in the foreseeable future so we can direct most of our use to you and not a 3 party? 
  • Why doesn’t ALM at least upgrade their news platform to provide custom alerts? This functionality has been around for decades. There are very few news products around that don't allow custom alerts. Is this being planned? (Don't look now but relative newcomer Law 360 has just released a custom alerts component).
  • Does ALM plan to load a complete archive of news publications for subscribers to those news sources? If yes when? 
  • Is there any content that will remain exclusively available on Lexis and not available from any ALM platform for the foreseeable future? 
 For those of us who are responsible for providing our firm's lawyers with the best content while controlling costs and reducing redundant purchasing of content, the absence of a long term  ALM strategy creates a special challenge.I assume I can speak for my colleagues when I say we all look forward to learning about ALM's digital strategy.