SCOTUSblog spent about $10,000 to keep site running during final days of Supreme Court term

Scotusblog | Forbes | Yahoo

In anticipation of the Supreme Court's closely watched upcoming decision that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Scotusblog has moved its live blog of court decisions to a new site (the old URL will redirect). Deputy manager Max Mallory "has four sets of rosary beads" with him today, publisher Tom Goldstein writes. The court will release orders at 10 a.m. Goldstein writes, "the way things are trending, on the last day of the Term we may have 250,000 people on the liveblog at once."

We hired a firm to redo a lot of the code that drives the blog. This weekend, we hired a second firm to do even more. So should load more efficiently.

We also moved the load of the liveblog off of the site. This liveblog is run on an entirely different server run by a different company. The site is also obviously much simpler, without any of the other widgets and gizmos of the main site that slow down loading times.

In addition to the server move, Goldstein writes on the site, the Scotusblog team has made PDFs of relevant stuff it's published already (e.g.), "and uploaded it to yet a third set of servers – the Amazon cloud," and will provide links to those to try to keep its server load bearable. Goldstein says the blog has spent "roughly $10,000" to keep going today and through the week (the health-care decision could come on Thursday or even be pushed to the court's next term, though that would be unusual, editor Amy Howe writes.)

The site also staffed up: "Usually, the liveblog for us is Lyle [Denniston] dictating developments to Amy by phone from the press area. We’re still doing that, but now it is all hands on deck for us," Goldstein writes on the blog, which is sponsored by Bloomberg Law. Kevin Russell and Tejinder Singh joined Goldstein, Howe and Denniston in live blogging.

"We're under-rested and over-caffeinated here at SCOTUSblog HQ in Friendship Heights," Howe blogged Monday morning.

At 10:13 Kali Borkoski wrote on the blog that there were nearly 90,000 readers on the site. By the time the court announced there wouldn't be a decision until Thursday, nearly 100,000 readers were online, Howe wrote.

The blog reports in "relay" style, Goldstein told Forbes contributor Dan Diamond, with Denniston feeding Howe information from his perch at the court. “We’re mostly concerned with not dropping the baton,” Goldstein told Diamond. The blog's traffic has exploded this year, increasing by a factor of ten in June alone, Diamond writes. The court's a bit Web-shy, and Scotusblog's functionality (and cool-headed commentary; look at the pushback Reuters received for instant analysis of the Arizona ruling this morning) is a draw for court-watchers and court employees alike:

That contributes to SCOTUSblog and SCOTUS’s somewhat-fraught relationship – the tradition-bound Court doesn’t
formally recognize the blog, but based on personal conversations and
IP addresses, Goldstein knows that its staffers are avid users. And
why not? Between deep, easy-to-navigate and breaking coverage, “we’ve devoted more resources than anyone” to the Court, he adds.

In an interview with Yahoo News' Liz Goodwin, Denniston said he liked
Web reporting's "share and support" ethos among reporters, but he does miss seeing more reporters in person day-to-day:

But a change he is less excited about is the emptying out of the Supreme Court press room. "So much of the raw material with which Supreme Court reporters work is online, so most of the reporters don't come around to the press room anymore. The press room is really very lonesome, there are only about four or five of us here [on a non-decision day]." He says this has resulted in less "intimacy" in Supreme Court reporting, which sometimes misses out on the personalities of the justices and other court characters, and ignores lower-profile decisions.

In a horizontal move, Scotusblog appears to be moving into the rag trade, making shirts saluting Denniston.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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