On a regular basis I am asked about the relationship between EJIL and its (very successful) blog, EJIL: Talk! There is a substantive dimension to the question and a procedural-management dimension which I will address in turn.
EJIL and EJIL: Talk! The Substantive Relationship. The internet has changed scholarship in profound ways, mostly positive, some negative, and has also changed the function and identity of scholarly journals. I recall the days when at EJIL we would scurry around to find someone who would write a quick comment, to appear in the next issue when, say, the ICJ or Appellate Body of the WTO (yes, EJIL never considered international economic law as a stepson) handed down a decision. Today, by the time the next issue appears, there will be endless commentary on the net and, in all likelihood, a few SSRN papers as well. In some ways, this has been liberating, since it has enabled EJIL to focus on the deeper and longer lasting contributions ̶ the standard yardstick we apply to any submission in this regard is: Will this be interesting, so far as we can tell, in five years from now? Anything less than that we consider ephemera. We do not publish case notes as such or ‘recent developments’, but we are very happy with our occasional series, ‘Critical Review of International Jurisprudence’ and ‘Critical Review of International Governance’, which usually take the form of a review of a line of cases or of a certain international legal praxis, with a view not only of informing, but also conceptualizing and evaluating. We believe these contributions also have lasting value.
The push to establish EJIL: Talk! came from our conviction that the authors and readers of EJIL are among the most qualified to offer reflection and commentary on a more immediate and ongoing basis ̶ a commentary which had been squeezed out of EJIL as explained above. Blogging seemed a promising avenue. We surveyed the blogosphere and drew some conclusions as to the identity of EJIL: Talk! It would be semi-moderated, meaning that a first posting would have to be approved by the blog masters, who would also reserve the right to remove or suggest amendments to inappropriate postings. We would not practise content censorship except in extreme situations ̶ verified libel or opinions universally accepted as beyond the pale, such as holocaust denial and the like. But we would be quite severe as to the tone of EJIL: Talk!, insisting that all submissions and comments (!) be sober in tone and, even when in serious disagreement with an interlocutor, respectful in idiom. When it comes to content itself we welcome the radical and innovative ̶ there have been some spectacular postings of this nature. When it comes to manner of expression we prefer to err on the side of stodginess. We have seen too many blogs descend into shouting matches and worse. On one or two occasions I think we have come close to the line, e.g. some of the commentary following our Armenia Genocide exchange (see here and here). I have asked the blog masters to be vigilant.
I consider EJIL: Talk! to be very successful by a number of yardsticks. For the most part the posts ̶ the lifeblood of a blog ̶ are of high quality: reflective, thoughtful and thought provoking, and never dashed-off ideas scribbled on the back of an envelope. They address, in content, the timely and topical, but also create interesting topics of discussion.
The substantive relationship between EJIL and EJIL: Talk! is not exhausted by the division of tasks mentioned above. There is a conversation between the two, where articles and book reviews in EJIL are linked to EJIL: Talk! and become the subject of comment and exchange. Likewise, the Editorials of EJIL are published on the blog as well, and occasionally solicit considerable comment. We have various plans on board for enhancing this cross-fertilization – and suggestions from our readers are welcome too.
EJIL: Talk! has also been successful quantitatively. There were around 240 posts in 2012 with a regular average of about 20 each month, about one post every week day. Some other blogs have so much activity that one may be overwhelmed and others are too infrequent. I like our numbers.
Dapo Akande has recently posted the statistics, including the ‘top of the pops’ in terms of viewings. A word of caution: not every viewed page is a read page: sometimes an enticing title evokes interest, but then the visitor moves on immediately. In all, EJIL: Talk! gets between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors each month and between 5,000 and 7,000 each week.
The top 10 countries where readers are based are, in this order: the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, India, France. The top five countries account for about 50% of readers.
EJIL and EJIL: Talk! Issues of Management: EJIL: Talk! belongs to EJIL, which has ultimate editorial and legal responsibility for it. A libel suit against the blog? I fear it would be me again in the dock. The blog masters are appointed by the EJIL Editor-in-Chief with the advice and consent of the Board of Editors. It works, so we do not plan to fix it, but here too we have various thoughts of rotation and refreshing, such as but not limited to, the appointment for a determined period of time of regular contributors ̶ which we will henceforth call Contributing Editors. If you are interested in serving in this role, let us know. Policy decisions of the blog are taken by the blog masters, with the advice and consent of the Editor-in-Chief, but day-to-day management is in their hands.
The blog has not, in my view, simply been very successful in its own terms. It has become an integral part of the identity of EJIL ̶ one of many possible models for scholarly publishing in the age of the internet, a model which to date we have come to like and value. I thank Dapo Akande, Marko Milanovic and Iain Scobbie on behalf of all EJIL authors and readers.