Should More Academics Blog? A Follow-Up Exchange

Jeff Bloem, whose initial post caused me to write my own post a few weeks ago about whether more academics should blog, forwarded my post to a colleague of mine and mentor of his at MSU. My colleague was kind enough to cc me on his reply to Jeff:

Thanks for sending! I disagree with Marc at the margin. He has a good point that there’s an important self-selection factor that no doubt gives an upward bias to the effect of blogging on careers …

But my gut says that Marc misses one important point: There is a generational bias effect too. Few from my generation are blogging, yet some could do so well. Our colleague [Redacted] is a frenetic emailer. Had he started his career 20 years later, I suspect he would be blogging and have a meaningful following. …

My response, in which I make a point (in bold) I don’t see often in discussions of whether academics should blog:

You are right that the timing within one’s career matters a whole lot, and the implicit, underlying assumption I was making was for people roughly of my generation and younger. Had the technology been around when [Redacted] was an assistant professor … I think he would have become a leading blogger, on top of being a leading researcher. …

There’s also a different kind of timing, in a Stackelberg sense: I remember reading a book about the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (sounds silly, but the book has great content about how to package/present your research), and the first law is something like: It is more important to be first than to be better. [It looks like t]here is a [huge] first-mover advantage to [being the first to blog about a distinct, specific area of research.]

And indeed [Warning! Casual empiricism follows], the most well-known blogs in any given area are also the oldest: Marginal Revolution was probably the first economics blog. Similarly, Chris Blattman was, as far as I can tell, the first to blog regularly about development economics.

Update: Alex Tabarrok notes in a tweet to me that there was survivorship bias. Indeed; the point above, like the point I made in my earlier post, applies to those who have continued blogging and ignores those bloggers who have attrited out.

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