Economics blogging isn't just procrastinating. And there is empirical evidence for this. [Don't you just love economists?]
Above is one of the regressions that McKenzie and Ozler use in their 2011 paper "The Impact of Economics Blogs" to test for the impact of blogging about economics papers on its dissemination. They find that links from blogs lead to a substantial increase in the number of abstract views and downloads of economics papers. Secondly, blogging raises blogger's profile and boosts their reputation above economists with similar publication records. Finally, blogs can influence attitudes and knowledge.
Having taken up blogging this year, I was fascinated to find this paper. I have begun to follow economics blogs more closely as they are a great source of knowing what is new. I have realized that writing blogs takes way more time than you think it does. I mostly read Michael Clemens and Dilip Ratha, both of whom write on migration topics, and I read the papers they cite – and if I read them carefully, I can spend a whole day on just one blog post.
Blogging isn't cheap when it comes to time costs. However, I am finding both the reading and writing of economics blogs helpful for my doctoral studies as I try to write on topics related to my research. So when McKenzie and Ozler conclude, "Economic blogs are doing more than providing a new source of procrastination for writers and readers", I am telling my colleagues: see, this ain't wasting time!
So, why don't more economists blog? At least from Tyler Cowen's perspective, it's “because they can't, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists. It's simply a different set of skills”, point out McKenzie and Ozler.
And I am finding this to be true – what makes blogging so much harder for those who are used to writing academic papers is the need to have an opinion and to express it coherently (and to defend it in the comment section). Every economic issue necessitates an opinion, as there are at least two sides to every issue. Free trade creates winners and losers – so does migration. As economists, we carefully analyze arguments from both sides but in the end we choose a side and make sure that the policies we recommend generate either less losers or that the losses can/will be compensated. We do this in academic journals as well, but writing it in a blog is different because now it becomes very personal. However, for a wider audience to understand economics, it is important for economists to break out of the journal-mode and express their opinions in a more reachable manner. A blog is really not a bad way to start.