Richard Granat has a worrying analysis of some recent news, the purchase by Internet Brands of Nolo (know to many of us as Nolo Press).
Richard’s view in summary:
It will be interesting to see how Internet Brands integrates these legal properties to leverage the assets in each acquisition as its tries to compete with the likes of Findlaw and Lawyers.com. It will also be interesting to see whether the quality of Nolo’s self help legal content deteriorates under the management of an advertising company that measures results in impressions, clicks, and unique visitors. If Jake Warner, the present CEO stays involved, I am sure the quality of Nolo’s products will remain “top of class.”
Here is the Publisher’s Weekly story, with a different perspective from the Nolo co-founder.
Warner said he and co-founder (and wife) Toni Ihara chose to sell to IB because they felt it would be best for its 108 employees. So far all Nolo employees have kept their jobs and CEO Bob Dubow will work through the transition period. According to Warner, IB will keep Nolo in Berkeley and is planning to move the small legal websites it has there. Nolo’s operations will be combined with those of ExpertHub (www.experthub.com), Internet Brands’ existing legal-focused division, with domains including Nolo.com, LawFirms.com and CriminalDefenseLawyer.com.
“One of the reasons we loved Internet Brands is that they totally get the value of top notch content,” said Warner. Producing high quality, accessible and affordable legal content has been Nolo’s mission since it was founded four decades ago this month. “Nolo needed to be part of a bigger enterprise going forward,” he added.
Although Nolo’s online business has grown rapidly, its print operations will continue under IB. In a blog post welcoming Nolo into the company, Internet Brands CEO Bob Brisco called Nolo “the leading legal publisher for consumers—both in print and online.” Brisco’s laid out IB’s three-pronged plans for its latest acquisition: “1. Expand Nolo’s lead as the best consumer legal publisher in all formats (print, -ebooks, web, mobile] 2. Invest strongly in the digital parts of the business 3. Capture synergies with our existing online businesses.” Steve Lombardi, general manager of ExpertHub will head Nolo going forward.
My view is that Nolo’s books are critical to providing access to justice. One court-based law librarian told me that in some libraries the Nolo books were the only self-help resources. While there are obviously many online resources, including the national LSC-initiated websites network, (see www.lawhelp.org for access to the full network,) Nolo remains critical.
The access to justice community will need to keep a close eye on this, and if gaps develop, find ways to fill them.