Want to Write for Traditional Media? It Helps to Be a Bystander

In an explanatory note I added to my recent post about LegalZoom (here), I said that business publications had declined to run the piece, and that the explanation I had received was that it’s frowned on to publish a critique of a company by one of its competitors.

In my note, I observed that Koncision doesn’t really compete with LegalZoom. But I also said that “I suspect that only someone with skin in the game is going to care enough, and have sufficient expertise, to bother looking closely at what LegalZoom has to offer.”

It’s that point I’d like to expand on now.

This wasn’t the first time that because of what I do an editor has suggested that it would be inappropriate for a periodical to publish something I’ve written. Write about outsourcing template maintenance? But Koncision is in that business! Write about using document assembly in contract drafting? But Koncision is in that business!

If a publication is unwilling to accept contributions from someone if they write about the business they’re in, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what their competitors are doing, that publication is going to lose a valuable source of insight. Instead, it will rely more on the views of people on the sidelines.

And that comes at a cost, in that with critical distance comes … well, distance. Other people writing about LegalZoom may be admirably disinterested, but that might explain why no one other than me has felt the need to consider the quality of LegalZoom’s business contracts.

When considering contributions, a publication should primarily be on the lookout for self-promotion and unsupported assertions, but they’re easy enough to spot. Beyond that, it might be best to let people hash things out in the marketplace of ideas.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.