Sep 2, 2011

The impact of economic blogs

From the article linked in this post: 
There is a proliferation of economics blogs, with increasing numbers of economists attracting large numbers of readers, yet little is known about the impact of this new medium. Using a variety of experimental and non-experimental techniques, this study quantifies some of their effects. First, links from blogs cause a striking increase in the number of abstract views and downloads of economics papers. Second, blogging raises the profile of the blogger (and his or her institution) and boosts their reputation above economists with similar publication records. Finally, a blog can transform attitudes about some of the topics it covers.
The paper presents a clear illustration of the impact of econ-blogs: they increase the number of views of the paper they link to:
Irwin (1997) received an average of 3.4 abstract views and 0.8 downloads per month from the NBER working paper series during 2009. Then on February 16, 2010, Paul Krugman blogged about the paper on his “Conscience of a Liberal” blog, resulting in 940 abstract views and 151 downloads in February 2010.7 The paper then went back to averaging 0.8 downloads a month and 5.3 abstract views a month from April 2010 through March 2011. 
Effects of blogs on the papers they linked to:
To place the impacts in perspective, it is useful to first compare them to the download and abstract numbers for an average NBER working paper: 10.3 abstract views per month and 4.2 downloads per month from RePEc in months 3- 14 after release. A blog post on Chris Blattman or Aid Watch is thus equivalent to an extra 7-9 months of abstract views, and 4-6 months of downloads. The impacts of Freakonomics, Marginal Revolution and Paul Krugman are even larger – with the abstract view impact of 300-470 equivalent to 3 or more years of regular views, and the download impact of 33-100 downloads equivalent to 8 months to 2 years of regular downloads. 
Other results:
[b]logs are having an influence on how people feel about the effectiveness of particular policies, particularly among more policy-oriented respondents. Thus 44 percent of field staff who read blogs and 34 percent of World Bank operational economists say that, in the past month, they have changed their views about the effectiveness of some policy intervention as a result of a blog post. This is also the case for 29 percent of Ph.D. student readers, but only 10 percent of assistant professors who read blogs.  
Other interesting findings:
It seems reasonable that encouragement to read a research-oriented blog is likely to work better for individuals who are more interested in pursuing a research career. 
The question that remains -- among others:
Why so few women blog? 
 Very interesting article throughout.  

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