A New Year's Message: Plans for 2015

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, January 1, 2015, 10:25 AM

First off, happy New Year to all our readers.

The year 2014 was a great one for Lawfare--with continued growth in readership, and development of new content streams. I honestly did not believe we would eclipse Lawfare's performance in 2013 this past year. But we did. We had 1.2 million visits in 2014, up 11 percent from 2013. These came from nearly 700,000 readers worldwide, more than half of whom were new to the site. I'm very grateful to everyone who has spent time on Lawfare this year, who has found it useful, stimulating, enraging, or just plain fun.

We have big plans for the coming year as well, and I wanted to take a moment and share some of them. The common theme here is that Lawfare is evolving from a blog run by three friends and colleagues into a magazine and research tool aimed at, and relied upon, by a professional community. As we realized this was happening, we had to build an organization to support Lawfare. We had to arrange a technical architecture that could withstand cyber attacks from people who don't like us. And most important and challenging, instead of just writing posts, we had to think in a strategic editorial manner about what this community wants and needs from us.

The goal has been to expand the site with different content areas each aimed at segments of the community that practices national security law. Some of these fields are technical, some are regional. Some simply reflect areas where Lawfare has not historically had a lot to say. So in the coming weeks and months, we'll be adding new names to our roster of regular writers. That will continue throughout the year as we reach out to people who, we feel, have important contributions---some legal, some not---to the discussion our community is having or needs to have.

In particular, there are a number of specific areas we are going to build out substantively. We have already begun enhancing content related to Asia maritime issues, for example. That will continue. And we have begun as well developing better resources on law and policy in Middle East conflict---where the Palestinians are heading to the International Criminal Court and the Israelis are mired in a fascinating set of targeting disputes with respect to Gaza. This latter area, in particular, is one where the legal resources are rich, and we intend to develop significant new content. We are always expanding our coverage of the technical issues that drive a lot of the legal disputes, particularly in the cyber and surveillance realms.

To support these changes, we are rebuilding and redesigning Lawfare's site. The more diverse our content becomes, the less appropriate the blog format---in which everything appears sequentially in a descending vertical format---becomes for it. Some people come to the site for detailed military commissions coverage, some for discussions of surveillance. We need to develop better ways to differentiate our content so people can easily find what they are looking for. The many people who have donated to Lawfare in response to my various pleas over the past few months have helped make this redesign possible---for which we are very grateful. I will have more on these plans as they develop further.

Finally, in response to reader requests, we are going to do some experiments this year with live events. These ideas are still taking shape, and we are very open to suggestions about what readers would enjoy and find useful. But in the coming months, we'll be dipping our toes in these waters, getting some programming off the ground, and trying to create events in which this incredible community of readers actually gets to lay eyes on and talk to one another.

Stay tuned.