Mailing lists start off with all of the best intentions. Setting up a mailing list is child’s play for even the most technologically-challenged lawyer, and populating it with subscribers can spell little more effort than copying an address book. Early on, enthusiasm fuels a mailing list as its subscribers introduce one another, express glee at finding a venue, trade tips of the trade, and eagerly foment discussion and debate. And then sometimes after a flurry of activity, the list simply flatlines. Nothing is sadder and more forlorn than a mailing list with a substantial subscriber base having nothing to say.
Before pulling the plug, the owner of a moribund mailing list should examine the reasons for lack of list activity. Is this list’s subject matter as relevant as WordStar and the Rule in Shelley’s case? A discussion of the impeachment issues faced by the Clinton Administration may well have reached its useful life. Is it time to refocus the list? Has the list been superseded by other lists? What exactly is keeping subscribers from posting?
If a mailing list is worth keeping alive, there are a few steps which can be taken to resuscitate it:
- Spark discussion by introducing new topics.
- Plant a few shills in the studio audience to drive discussion and even create friendly controversy.
- Discuss pending legislation, something newsworthy, a law review article, a court case, or even a law-related blog post.
- Poll the members
- Market the list to other mailing lists, blogs, and even websites.
- Repurpose old list posts.
- Refine and redirect the list’s subject matter to timely, noteworthy topics.
- Ask list subscribers to confirm their interest in the list, purging the nonresponsive.
- Hire new management.
Sometimes, it’s best to simply realize that the list’s purpose in life has come to an end. If its archival value is not likely to impress researchers, euthanize the list, cremating its archived posts. Even old law office files face certain destruction in time.