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Redesigned ABAJournal.com balances editorial and user judgment

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Web 2.0, social media, user-generated content—regardless of the term used—is the hottest concept in online media today. Especially in b-to-b, where site users often are the experts in the field, media companies are exploring various ways in which the audience can contribute content and share ideas.

The American Bar Association’s recently relaunched ABAJournal.com is designed “to give our readers’ judgment as much weight as our own,” said Edward Adams, editor and publisher of ABA Journal and ABAJournal.com.

Adams explained how this concept is executed: The editors examine prominent newspaper sites, newswires such as AP and Reuters, other legal Web sites and a host of legal blogs (blawgs in the legal community) to gather the most up-do-date legal news throughout the day, from 5 a.m. through 7 p.m. CT. (ABA is based in Chicago.)

The editors showcase the story they think is the most important at the top of the home page. It is summarized in a few paragraphs, with links to the original story and important documents, such as the full text of a legal decision. Below the top story are four headlines selected by the editors.

On the lower left side of the page is a list of the latest legal headlines organized in reverse chronological order and time stamped (such as “24 minutes ago” or “2 hours, 5 minutes ago”). Although editors summarize the stories, as with the others, only the time of posting determines the order.

In a Most Read box, the top 10 stories readers have selected are listed. “Sometimes a story catches on with our readers that we didn’t think was that important,” Adams said.

The ABAJournal.com not only allows readers to weigh in on top news stories but also collects their opinions and insights. “We wanted to bring into the site the vast number of lawyers across the country who blawg,” Adams said.

The blawgers are not prescreened by the site’s editors. “If we find a blawg, we add it,” Adams said. Each blawg listing provides a short summary of the topic covered, the name of the authors and their affiliations (such as law schools, firms, government agencies), subject categories that fit the blawg (such as election law or antitrust law) and the opening words of the most recent posts.

Boxes listing the Most Popular Blawgs of the day, the past seven days, the past 30 days and of all time show up on several pages. Once again, these lists allow readers to determine the most valuable or interesting commentaries.

News stories and blawgs, as well as stories from ABA Journal that are posted in full on the site, are categorized by topic and area of law. “Lawyers, like anyone in business, are pressed for time,” Adams said.

The Web site, www.abajournal.com, was relaunched July 23.

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