Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Martindale-Hubbell tries to "get Web 2.0" but they really don't.

The recent experience of Martindale-Hubbell shows the danger of a company positioning themselves as a social media player without actually embracing the Web 2.0 culture. Throughout 2008 LexisNexis worked hard to reposition Martindale-Hubbell, the dying lawyer ratings directory, as a social network for lawyers. In just 3 days in December, Martindale-Hubbell’s credibility within the Web 2.0 community was badly damaged by their ineffectual response to a leak that rapidly spread around the blogosphere.

Several other influential bloggers have posted on their problems, but I thought I might throw in some of the backstory and give a blow-by-blow description.

June 2008: Martindale Hubbell positioned as social network for lawyers.
Leader Networks and LexisNexis released a study on lawyers and social networks indicating that lawyers see M-H as a good platform for a social network

July 2008: Martindale Hubbell and LinkedIn join forces
Business-based social network LinkedIn and LexisNexis announced an agreement where LinkedIn profiles are displayed on M-H and M-H content appears on LinkedIn.

Dec 22: Blogger Heather Milligan queries the future of M-H based on an email from her M-H Consultant.
Is Martindale-Hubbell's AV Rating System officially dead?
I received an e-mail on Friday from a peer at LexisNexisMartindale division notifying me that not only was she let go, so was her entire department.”

Dec 22-23: Twitter spreads the news rapidly
Major influences in the legal industry, including a range of other legal publications and directories, voice their opinions. There is no official word on Twitter from Martindale Hubbell. The only person on twitter who is connected to Lexis M-H indicates he cannot speak for the company on this matter.

Dec 23: News of M-H’s incipient demise is posted on influential blogs
Is Martindale-Hubbell's lawyer rating system officially dead? Kevin O’Keefe, Real Lawyers Have Blogs
Martindale Hubbell's AV Rating System Dead As A Dodo. Sean Hocking, House of Butter

Late Dec 23: Lexis responds
Lexis responds with a comment at the bottom of the original post, a post on its own blog, and a statement to the media. The blog post appears to be very similar to the statement and feels like “PR speak”.

Dec 23 onwards: bloggers are unimpressed with Lexis’ response
There are multiple blog posts and tweets to the effect that “Martindale Hubble doesn’t understand Web 2.0”.
Martindale-Hubbell doesn’t get it. Kevin O’Keefe, Real Lawyers Have Blogs
The Death of AV (Update: MH Responds). Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice.

It will be interesting to see how/if Martindale-Hubbell recovers from this incident, and what its future will be.


Laxmi said...

Hi Linda,

I’m Laxmi Wordham, vice president at Martindale-Hubbell. I saw your post today about Martindale-Hubbell, so wanted to follow up. Some of your observations are correct -- Martindale-Hubbell has a ways to go before it can call itself fully “web 2.0.” This is a major initiative for us, and we are working hard to transform Martindale-Hubbell in a meaningful way.

To that end, our primary focus is on the launch of our professional networking site, Martindale-Hubbell Connected. While Currently in beta (with over 2,000 corporate counsel and private practice attorney members at present), the site will officially launch later in the first quarter. If you’d be interested, we’d be happy to give you a tour of the site.

Finally, I wanted to make sure you saw some recent media coverage and blog postings about the way in which Martindale-Hubbell is transforming:

From Robert Ambrogi:

From the ABA Journal:

From Outsell analyst David Curle:

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or are interested in seeing a demo of Martindale-Hubbell Connected.


Linda Moore said...

Thankyou very much for your response Laxmi. I was quite impressed with how rapidly you picked my post up and with the sincerity of your response. It seems to me that sincerity and speed are the keys to managing Web 2.0 relationships, as was demonstrated by the experience of your company in December.

The additional links are very useful, I will have to spend some time going through the Outsell one in particular. I would definitely appreciate a tour through Martindale-Hubbell Connected; it is a challenge to turn a Web 1.0 product into a social community and I am very interested to see how you pull it off.

Laxmi said...

Linda, I appreciate your comments. If you send me your email we can set up a time so I can give you a tour of Connected.