Tomorrow I will head for the Kauffman Foundation Economic Bloggers Forum. The program is very interesting and includes many panelists whom I frequently cite. I look forward to meeting and talking with some blogging colleagues. There is a web link for people who want to keep tabs on the proceedings.
Successful Economic Blogging
My viewpoint on economic blogging is not really reflected on the conference panels. That is fine; I will watch and learn. Meanwhile, the keys to successful blogging are readily understood.
There is real tension. What stimulates traffic may lack merit. What has strong and objective content may seem uninteresting.
Building a Successful Blog
There is a well-known formula for building a successful blog:
- Be opinionated and controversial;
- Make a lot of posts; have an opinion on everything;
- Be irreverent and sassy;
- Connect with your readers -- in ideology, viewpoint, and language;
- Get a lot of comments going, since people return to argue the threads;
- All of this results in more page views -- the ultimate measure.
Should we be surprised that economic blogging reflects the audience?
There is a Darwinian process. The audience "endorses" certain viewpoints. A blog may have thousands of readers, but only a few comments. These comments often reflect an extreme viewpoint. Any author who has attempted to write an analytical, neutral article has had this experience. It is wise to ignore, but the human reaction is to adapt. For this reason, some blogs have drifted, losing value over time. The authors are too interested in building an audience and not concerned enough with their message.
This process has created an interesting result and unfortunate result. Some bloggers at the pinnacle of success in terms of popularity really have little fresh analysis. Each day, like a host on talk radio, they reinforce the predispositions of their audience. Meanwhile, some of the strongest economists (the real ones) have almost no audience.
Journalists cannot seem to tell the difference. Faced with the question of determining what makes sense, they look to the blogs that are the most popular. Briefly put, instead of informing the public, most current journalists simply cater to the online audience. In a time of cutbacks, this should not be a surprise.
The consequence is that the economic blogosphere is just as distorted as the famous poll that predicted Dewey over Truman. It reflects an audience that is over-represented in the following ways: wealthy, libertarian, conservative, Republican, anti-government, and cynical.
Is it any surprise that these blogs (according to the Pragmatic Capitalist) have been too bearish?
It will be interesting to see leading bloggers engage face-to-face. The dynamic is much different in person. I expect to learn a great deal, and I'll try to report what I learn.