August 2010

Can magazines learn lessons from a smoothie?

In a few hours, I’ll be in a meeting that explores some important questions: How should we (re)create the Arizona Attorney Magazine web page? What can and should we include on it? And how can we do all that with few (people) resources?

But as I prepare for the discussion, an intriguing news story crossed my desk. It reports that McDonalds expects to hire up to 1,000 new Arizona employees as quickly as possible.

What’s the rush, fast-food giant?

Well, the skinny on the fattening-food provider is this: The demand for their newest beverage offerings—including their smoothies that seek to grind Starbucks’ beans into dust—is so great that they need lots more people.

In fact, the demand for that one family of products is so great that they are ramping up hiring. So many customers crave the sweet, sweet libation—which is dispensed by pushing a button—that a thousand new hires are required in one state alone.

A McCafe Mobile Dispensary

Not only that: Around the globe, they’ve launched an old-school mobile strategy, which includes vans with trailers that swoop down on unsuspecting consumers to offer samples of “The Gateway DrinkTM.” People who had no idea that they deserved a high-calorie liquid meal between meals are being introduced to a bevy of beverages.

As the proprietor of a product and service myself, let me be the first to say: I’m jealous.

At this morning’s meeting about the magazine, a few of us will try to decide whether to include blogs, videos, podcasts, surveys and news streams to the magazine’s web offerings. (I’m going to vote “Yes.”) Coupled with our print offerings, these products would be valuable services that enhance our readers’ work, and maybe bring smiles to their faces.

But out of all that, it’s hard to predict if we’ll land a category-killer like McDonalds has.

To help aim for that, though, maybe I’ll pitch a new idea: The Arizona Attorney Webaccino. Fewer calories, more bytes, accessible via your mobile device, no drive-through necessary. Sure, an hour later, you’ll say, “I can’t believe I consumed that.” But that’s the price we pay for progress.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how our meeting went. And I’ll share a few of the other magazine websites we reviewed as we seek best practices in magazine web pages.

And who knows: Maybe we’ll decide that nothing would improve the reader experience more than a side of fries.

Here is the McDonalds news story.

We're crafty ... and looking for ideas.

August ends tomorrow, and I am nearing completion of our 2011 Editorial Calendar for Arizona Attorney Magazine. But there is still time to pitch your own idea for a story or a topic we should cover.

I previously posted our magazine mission – thanks to those who already responded.

To boost your creative juices, here is our current (2010) Editorial Calendar. Post your comments on the blawg, or write to me at


International Courts

Pro–Con: Attorneys’ Fees


Prisons & Detention

Water Law


Lawyer Discipline Revised

Committee & Award Nominations

Expert Witness (Advertising) Guide


Marketing Ethics: FaceBook & More

Pro–Con: The Mandatory Bar

Member-to-Member Referral (Advertising) Guide


Creative Competition Winners

Board of Governors Candidates

Law Office & Trial Support Services (Advertising) Guide


Top 10 Civil Verdicts

Forum Selection


Pro–Con: Character & Fitness

New State Bar President


The Legal Ideas Issue

Convention Highlights


Environmental Law/Renewable Energy

Privacy Since Griswold


The Voting Rights Act at 45

Pro–Con: ADR vs. The Jury Trial

Mediation & ADR (Advertising) Guide


Bush v. Gore 10 Years Later

The Illustrated Amendment

The best news I received the other day came to me in an e-mail, when I was cc’ed on a note from our magazine printer to Michael Peel, our Production Manager. Here is the complete e-mail:


“We have confirmed with the US Post Office that you are hereby officially considered a “droop free publication”. Congratulations!



Those words, from our great printer Prismagraphic in Phoenix, meant a lot to us at Arizona Attorney Magazine. And to understand why they meant a lot, you have to understand what the Post Office thinks of magazines.

In two words, the answer is “Not much.”

We’ve all heard how the Postal Service is bleeding cash, and they are bound and determined to make it up however they can. Early on, postal bosses knew that raising the price of a first-class stamp a penny or so every year would only take them so far. The real cash cow, ready to be milked dry, was the collection of biggest domestic mailers—publications.

Our periodicals rate has risen faster than your stamp-rate has, but recently the Postal Service has found even more ways to locate magazine dollars. And that leads them to the “droop test.” Any piece that fails the test will be charged non-automated postage rates. And that is a really big deal.

Because the Postal Service is a quasi-governmental agency, their instructions for the droop test are complex and cover about four pages of single-spaced text. But the test boils down to this: We lay our magazine on a flat surface and let 5” hang over the edge. If it droops more than 3”, it fails the test.

Easy squeezy, right? It should be, but you really want confirmation from the Post Office. After all, one man’s 2.75” droop may be another’s 3.25”. (And we all know painful that can be.)

Well, we passed, and so we can relax—until the next round of regulation changes and enforcement.

Here is a video to see how you pass the dreaded droop test.

And here is a story about it.

Have a great weekend.

Belly up to the Knowledge Bar at Phoenix Law

Passing through my Twitter stream today, I saw this compelling instruction from the Phoenix School of Law (@phxlaw):

“Visit our Law library blog!”

Having once gone to law school, I tend to comply when ordered by a law school to do anything. So I clicked, and I was immediately charmed. You can do the same.

Charming? How so?

First of all, it’s titled Footnotes. You’ve got to love a sense of humor that chuckles at the defining feature of legal scholarship. To emphasize their point, they have added a superscript “1” to their title. For good measure, the footnote reads “1A Blawg from the Phoenix School of Law Library.”– love it.

Blawg-namer Jessica Cruz, Phoenix Law 3L


One of their posts tells us that the name was selected from almost 100 submitted by law students and others in a name-the-blog contest. The winning entry, by the way, came from 3L Jessica Cruz. Well named, Jessica!. (Now why didn’t we think of that?)

The blawg also provides useful commentary. I just read on it about HeinOnline and Google Scholar, as well as links to stories about social media in divorce cases and the new Bluebook (who better to cover that than Footnotes?).

Finally, its tone is inviting. Law students may never have an extra minute, but when they do, they may enjoy clicking through to see what the library staff is providing.

Now that’s a pretty cool way to dish out legal knowledge.

Click here to visit the Phoenix School of Law blawg.

The September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine just mailed and will be online September 1. Here is what I wrote about our cover feature for the first of what will be our annual “Legal ideas Issues.”

Part of Walk of Ideas by Scholz & Friends

Is it self-defeating to announce our first-annual “Legal Ideas Issue”? I mean, what exactly is it that we’ve been publishing all these years?

Maybe so, but I still welcome you to what I hope will be a yearly feature. Who better to ask than our readers: What changes can and should be made in the legal world? In a perfect situation, what modifications should be implemented—tomorrow—to make our society a better place?

The basic concept of the Idea goes back all the way to Plato. Entire categories of philosophy are devoted to determining what an Idea is, and how it relates to the world around us.

In reading about Ideas (yes, that’s what I do), I came across a remarkable series of sculptures dedicated to the many benefits that gray matter has spawned. They are called—not surprisingly—The Walk of Ideas—and are sited—again no surprise—in Germany.

The set of six sculptures, displayed in 2006 only, commemorated books, medicine, music, sport—even Einstein’s work on relativity. The sculptures are massive monuments to human intelligence and ingenuity.

We wondered: Could we create a similar monument in these pages? Could we ask our readers to share their ideas, however nascent? Would that be insightful and helpful, or putting Descartes before the horse?

You can probably guess what we decided. In this day and age, more thinking, even when it’s embryonic, is welcome.

Thank you to those who replied. And to those who thought of something but held back? Here’s hoping to hear from you next year.

The Geosocial Universe, by Jesse Thomas of digital creative agency Jess3

Rankings of all kinds serve a few purposes—sometimes competing ones. 

An infographic (don’t you love that term?) making the rounds this week shows in pictorial fashion the relative size of social network usage. It also points out how much of each social media channel is accessed by mobile devices.

This is a fascinating and useful way to communicate information. The graphic is clear and compact, and attractive, to boot.

But it can cause anxiety—much of it needless.

For instance, when I look at it and see Skype as the biggest piece of the pie, I have to wonder what I’m missing. You see, my name is Tim, and I am Skype-free (“Hello, Tim”).

In fact, my narrow view of Skype’s capabilities is challenged every time I talk to my 14-year-old daughter about it. I initially thought of Skype as a cool way jet-setting international types avoided long-distance call charges. You know, VOIP with a French accent.

I also thought it was purely video-chatting. But after I shared my clueless commentary, Willa just rolled her eyes, spoke with short words, and informed me it’s much more than that. In fact, I could use it without video.

I was chagrined, but also a little disappointed. After all, Facebook is nice and all, but Skype had seemed oh-so-Jetsons to me. I could use it as audio-only? Not so madcap after all.

But back to the infographic.

As you gaze at the relative pools of channel users, you have to wonder: Am I on the rising or declining wave in my channel? Should I allow my leaky raft to drift toward the siren songs? “Gowalla wants you.” “Foursquare means you’ll never be square again.” Their numbers are small, but are they growing, or are they yesterday’s coolio idea?

Can you hear me now?

And then, I take a deep breath. I remember that choices in channel are driven by choices in goal and mission. I remember that I have only so many hours and brain cells. And I remember that no stinkin’ social media channel is going to head off my squareness factor.

Now if only the Jetsons and I could get my Skype to work in my hovercraft.

More about that cool graphic is here.

Today’s odd news story comes out of Nevada (I’m pretty sure that’s not the first time I’ve ever written that sentence).

It arises from a state court judge who was confronted with a routine criminal case. Matthew Palazzolo had been arrested for selling marijuana to a police informant in a Lake Tahoe casino parking lot (which is odd, because I thought that’s what casino parking lots were for).

The story reveals that the lad worked at a Sacramento law firm (I’m pretty confident that the past tense is appropriate for the previous sentence). Unfortunately, nothing more is said about what he did at the firm—maybe he was in charge of snacks.

In any case, Palazzolo had initially gotten a California prescription for medical marijuana after crying “sore back” to a doctor. The pot he was arrested for selling? It was home grown.

The judge decided to take a unique route toward rehabilitation. As the story says, “District Judge Dave Gamble ordered Matthew Palazzolo to write a report on what the judge called the ‘nonsensical character’ of California’s medical marijuana law.”

(Yes, I know. His name is Judge Gamble. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Judge Gamble ordered the defendant to write a paper that displays Palazzolo’s realization that pot led him to use more powerful drugs.

This may be unique in court history. I know other defendants have had to demonstrate their contrition in unique ways, sometimes even in essays. But asking a defendant to write a paper which argues that a law is incorrect?

It sounds like it wasn’t just one defendant on trial there. Judge Gamble’s going after California voters.

Now wouldn’t we all enjoy reading that report? It’s due in 90 days—let’s hope it’ll be published (hello, Las Vegas newspapers?!).

Read the news story here.

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