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The November 2009 Blogger in the Spotlight is David Harlow from HealthBlawg.Blogger in the Spotlight is a monthly series where Newstex turns the spotlight on our publishers with in-depth interviews that give you a glimpse into the stories, tips and secrets of successful bloggers and content producers.

David Harlow

This month’s interview is with David Harlow, the Principal of The Harlow Group LLC, a Boston-based health care law and consulting firm.  David’s public and private sector experience over the past twenty years – including stints as a state regulator and as a downtown Boston law firm partner -- affords him a unique perspective on legal, policy and business issues facing the health care community.  In projects ranging from facilities development to joint ventures to Medicare demonstration projects to HIPAA and Stark and fraud and abuse compliance initiatives and beyond, health care providers, vendors and payors of all shapes and sizes rely on him to help them navigate these issues on a daily basis, and to structure transactions and relationships in order to maximize the realization of organizational goals in a highly-regulated environment.  David emphasizes the practice of preventive law, anticipating potential flashpoints early in the course of a project, and working to avoid litigation or regulatory enforcement actions whenever possible.  David’s blog, HealthBlawg, is a nationally-recognized health care law and policy blog.  You should follow him on Twitter.Newstex: How did you get started writing your current blog?David Harlow: When I left my partnership at a downtown law firm to strike out on my own as a health care lawyer and consultant, I knew I needed something to replace the marketing staff at my old firm.  Since everyone lives on the internet these days, I decided to focus my efforts on developing an online presence through blogging.Newstex: What makes your blog unique?David Harlow: Aside from the subject matter, which has niche, rather than broad, appeal, I've been told that a number of factors combine to make my blog appealing both to my regular readers and to those who come across it via links or online searches:  My perspective, informed by over twenty years' experience in both the private and public sectors; and my writing style, which I strive to keep legalese-free and accessible, even though I am often dealing with complicated issues in health care law and policy.  At the same time, I usually assume a certain baseline familiarity with the issues.  I also integrate other forms of media into my blogging, such as podcast interviews with leaders in the health care field.Newstex: To what do you attribute your blog's success, and what are the top 3 tips you can give to bloggers looking to develop successful blogs?David Harlow: Focus on a niche, and consistency in terms of both frequency of posting and perspective. Also, begin by listening: read other blogs that are relevant to your area of interest, and join in the conversation there and on Twitter as well.  Your blog is not a walled garden; you need to get into the conversations happening in your particular space.  Finally, another way of doing that is participating in blog carnivals (topical anthologies hosted by different bloggers in rotation).  I host Blawg Review, Health Wonk Review and Grand Rounds from time to time; each encompasses a different community.Newstex: What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your work on your blog?David Harlow: It's very satisfying for me to be able to clarify my thinking on issues through the exercise of writing about them.  It's even more satisfying when I hear from others that they appreciate my perspective on the issues.  It is also rewarding when clients retain me as a result of finding me online through my blog.Newstex: What inspires you to keep blogging?David Harlow: It's both the sense of community and the marketing benefits that flow from blogging -- or, in my case, blawgging.Newstex: What are your favorite blogs and why?David Harlow: I enjoy reading the perspectives of other folks interested in the same issues as I am who come at them from different angles, including physicians, health care executives, and other lawyers and consultants.  A few examples: Bob Wachter, Paul Levy, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Bob Coffield, the “usual suspects” who participate in the Health Wonk Review and Grand Rounds blog carnivals, the medbloggers at Better Health and the many folks whose writing ends up on The Health Care Blog.Newstex: What effects do you think blogging will have on traditional media?  How about on your industry?David Harlow: Umm, blogging has already had a tremendous impact on "MSM."  I am not necessarily an unapologetic fan of citizen journalism, because there are certain things that I think can be done best by someone with more subject matter or reporting technique expertise.  However, that person does not necessarily get extra points in my book just because of an affiliation with MSM.  The public at large has become less reliant on print and broadcast media (and their online outlets) and more open to other sources of information.  MSM has responded in some ways, by incorporating participatory features into their online properties.  Again, in news -- as in law and medicine -- the quality of all of those sources of information are variable, and it makes it harder, in a sense, for us to filter all the information coming at us from the proverbial firehose.Blogging and other social media (I am also active on Twitter, Linked In, Facebook - with a personal page and a firm fan page as well) serve to enable community building in a different way than was previously possible.  I have connected with colleagues, referral sources, clients, and reporters from MSM and otherwise, all via my online presence, many of whom I never would have encountered without these tools.  The effect is already here: the legal profession is now divided by blawgging – those who do it, those who do it well, those who will do it in the future, and those who never will.  As more and more of all aspects of our lives move online, it is critical for lawyers -- as well as for health care providers, for that matter --to have an online presence that is consistent with current standards of online practices.Newstex: At what point did you decide to syndicate your blog with Newstex and why?David Harlow: Pretty early on in my blogging career (which began about three years ago) I realized that it would be important to leverage as many distribution channels as possible for my blog.  Syndication has led to blog posts of mine appearing on MSM websites and broader reach to specialized health care and legal markets as well.Newstex: What's next for you and your blog?David Harlow: A lot of folks have predicted that Twitter will be the death of blogging.  I don't see it that way.  I use different social media channels for different purposes, and they interact with each other and with what I do IRL (in real life).  My blog continues to be the channel for my observations and analysis on health care law and policy developments, trends and issues, and I will continue to use other channels in a way that play off of and promote the blog.