David Oxenford is a broadcast and digital media lawyer and thought-leader, practicing in Washington DC as a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer. He represents broadcasters facing the FCC in regulatory matters, digital media companies navigating music licensing copyright, trade associations, financial institutions, and more. He is considered by many to be the face of broadcast and media law. David has been the editor and principal writer of the widely-read and renown Broadcast Law Blog for 15 years.
David discusses what exactly he does as media and broadcast lawyer and how that scene has changed a lot over the last few decades. He then discusses his surprise at his sector of the legal industry’s persistence throughout the pandemic. The discussion then moves to his blog—David details what it’s about, who reads it, why he started it, and how it’s evolved. He then discusses the process of switching firms with a blog and the current publishing process involving a few of his associates. He then discusses blogging has worked as a tool for career success and shares a few anecdotes about the publicity he’s received. David discusses addressing his enormous readership, shares what he’s learned about blogging, and finishes by offering some advice to aspiring bloggers.
Here’s the full episode and, down below, we have a selection of the best exchanges:
How has the media landscape changed in the last twenty years?
My practice has sort of expanded from broadcasters into a lot of digital companies because broadcast people have moved into the digital media world. And actually the blog has kind of followed that same trajectory. When we started in 2006, I was doing mostly FCC work. And at that point I had begun to get involved with some webcasters who were having some issues over music royalty issues and the blog sort of followed those issues. I read a lot now on music royalty matters for webcasters’ digital music services because my practice is expanded as broadcasters have moved into this field. Audio as well; the discussion we’re having here today, ultimately, will be shaped into a podcast. So many broadcasters and web casters have been moving as well into the podcasting space, and I’ve been working with some companies in that space as well as my clients migrate into those worlds.
Why did you start a blog in 2006? What led you to do that?
I spent the first 20 years of my career at a small firm that specialized in communications law. One of the things that we did at that firm was try to keep in touch with all of our clients as much as we could. We would send out newsletters on probably a weekly or every other week basis. These were physical pieces of paper that would summarize what went on at the FCC, and we would send those to hundreds of clients nationwide. It seemed to me that everybody was going digital and the electronic world was the way to keep in touch with people. At that firm we started to migrate to sending stuff by email—but it wasn’t really open to the world the way that a blog is. So when I went to Davis Wright [previous firm] in 2006, they had a couple of blogs, and I had been thinking about doing a blog and because they were already up and using the platform, they said why not. And so I launched the blog in 2006, and I’ve been going pretty regularly ever since.
When you started the blog, did you view it primarily as a marketing vehicle or did you have a different goal? Has it worked?
I think both marketing and just communications with clients. It’s just an easy way to put something out there that clients could read to stay on top of things and also make it available to the world so that they can find out what I’m talking about and know that I’m out there. But there’s been no question in terms of the marketing impact. I know this past year, a decent sized client read an article on some music rights issues that they were directly impacted by and gave me a call, and I ended up helping him out with a couple of issues. That doesn’t happen all the time; I get a lot of calls for free legal advice. But there are also real clients who come in through just reading about it in the blog. And even more than that it gives us validation. People reach you at a conference or get a referral from somebody else who did a Google search and found your name coming up a whole bunch of times on a particular topic. A lot of times, the blog is the reason that my name comes up. Or they go to the blog and read what I have said, and it provides the validation that I know what I’m talking about. Or if I’m taking a client through the halls of the FCC, and suddenly some government official is talking about the articles I’ve written on my blog on a particular topic, that impresses the client.
What sort of connections has blogging helped you make?
Well, I’m going to brag a little, if that’s okay. Two years ago, I was at a lunch with a young associate. The chairman of the FCC was there, addressing a group of broadcast engineers and guests of the engineers. At that point there was some controversy at the FCC, and I just blogged on it the day before. So, the chairman of the FCC walks in, and I’ve had some interactions with him, so he walked by the table. I said “hello Mr Chairman,” we shook hands, and he goes, “I really loved your article on this topic.” And the associate said “Wow, wow. He read your blog.” And then the chairman gave his speech and somebody asked him about that issue that I blogged about. And his answer was, “Go read a Dave Oxenford’s blog on that matter!” Thee associate was just like “Wow look at the chairman! He’s looking to you for legal advice!” It’s staggering to me, and a little frightening, that there are so many people that read it.
What have you learned? What advice would you give somebody just starting out? What’s most important about making a blog successful?
I think it’s a couple of things. One, be consistent. You’re going to have to dedicate the time to work and do it on a regular basis. Don’t just do a once-every-six months post because nobody’s going to read it. And secondly, have a voice. Have something to say. I’ve tried to make my blog readable, not for lawyers, even though lots of lawyers read it, but in plain English. I don’t use citations and I don’t use footnotes. If I have to use some legal words, I try to explain what they mean, so that it can be read by somebody in the business world. That’s the approach I’ve chosen. It’s just a question of finding what you want to say and how you want to say it and making sure that you’re consistent and doing it on a regular basis.
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