Blogs, Law Reviews, and the Economics of Superstars

Cite this Article
Keith Sharfman, Blogs, Law Reviews, and the Economics of Superstars, Truth on the Market (January 17, 2006),

Does the world really need yet another business law blog? Is the market for business law commentary truly underserved? Can a new blog like ours serve any useful purpose in a blogosphere already blessed with Bainbridge, Becker-Posner, Conglomerate, Ideoblog, 10b-5 Daily, and many other outstanding sites?

While “no� might well be the answer to all three questions, the good news is that at least our blog won’t do any harm and might actually do some good. Unlike some markets where the low cost of duplication enables mass distribution of the highest quality product, such as the markets for seeing professional athletes play and hearing rock stars sing, the blogosphere is not superstar-dominated. A blog’s market share is largely search-driven rather than reputation-based. And for search-generated hits, blog entries compete with each other on a level playing field. A blogger’s reputation cannot in itself trigger search hits in the absence of search-relevant content. This makes me confident that there’s still plenty of room for Truth on the Market in business law blogging, notwithstanding the large number of high quality business law blogs that already exist.

Law reviews provide an instructive analogy. Self-doubt often accompanies the launch of a new law journal. First issue law review volumes abound with short pieces by law school deans and other invited authors expressing concern about whether there are already too many law reviews and wondering what yet another one could possibly accomplish. Such pieces typically go on to find some polite (but in truth only nominal) way to distinguish the particular law review under discussion from law reviews generally. “This review will surely succeed,� the pieces assert, either because of the unparalleled skill/energy/dedication/enthusiasm of the journal’s student staff, or the unusual level of support that the journal enjoys from administrators or alumni of the host school, or the importance of the topical areas on which the journal plans to focus.

No doubt it is true that all of these things (staff quality, school support, and topicality) are factors affecting whether a journal will succeed. But the best explanation for why the population of law reviews continues to grow is, I think, the search-driven nature of legal research. Sure, you might want to look up a particular author’s recent works from time to time, and here there may well be a superstar effect. (E.g., legal scholars are more likely to look up the recent works of, say, a star like Posner than to look up the work of a scholar who is not as well known.) But much more often, the search will be issue-targeted rather than author-targeted. And in such searches, every law review on Lexis or Westlaw has at least a decent (if not an equally good) chance of coming up.

As with law reviews, so it is with blogs. New blogs successfully launch all the time. The risk of redundancy need not concern us. Our blog entries should come up when the subject matters on which we write are searched. And in this way we will be making (I hope important) contributions to public discourse.