Will Econ Blogging Hurt Your Career?

I ran across this very interesting youtube video by Noah Smith on “Will Econ Blogging Hurt Your Career?” I wanted to address that question as well. On balance, going forward, I think blogging is likely to be more of a help to your career than a hindrance–at least if you enjoy blogging. 

One way in which my experience has been different from Noah’s is that I spend much more than an hour and a half per week blogging, if I include writing for Quartz. I have undertaken blogging as a serious career move, and so don’t mind spending some serious time at it. But that is something more appropriate for my career stage than it would be for a graduate student or untenured professor. And having grown children who are already off making their way in the world makes it easier. 

As far as my own career goes, I feel the blogging has only been a plus. My colleagues in the Economics Department at the University of Michigan have been very supportive. Part of the reason is that I am not the only blogger here at Michigan. Noah has a list of other bloggers connected with the University of Michigan here. (Folks at the University of Michigan are blog readers, too. Interesing statistic: Ann Arbor edges out New York City as the city generating the most visits to my blog.)

As always, there are tradeoffs. Blogging might take time away from writing economics journal articles. But in my case I have found that blogging is fun enough and rewarding enough that I willingly do it at the expense of many leisure activities. And blogging builds human capital–contacts, writing skill and ideas (generated in important measure at the expense of non-blogging leisure)–that are valuable for research activities. So even the sign of the effect on traditional research productivity is, at this point, unclear. (Also, blogging should have some positive effect on citation accounts just by the inevitable publicizing of one’s own research, and is very helpful for one’s teaching.) Blogging creates additional temptations when one is avoiding hard but necessary tasks. But most of us face plenty of temptations in that regard anyway, and have had to develop techniques of self-discipline sufficient to get our work done.

I have a story to tell. Chris House’s office is right next to mine, with our doors one foot apart from each other. A couple of months ago, I walked into his office to talk as I often do, and he asked me how much time blogging took. I said “It depends on why you are asking; if you are asking so you can scold me for all the time I spend blogging …” Then it turned out he wanted to ask me if I thought it would be worth his while to start blogging. (I should say here that Chris is not the sort of person who would scold in any case; he would tease.)

Along the lines of what I said in my talk “On the Future of the Economics Blogosphere,” I said that I thought blogging was bound to grow in importance within economics–and that there is a first-mover advantage: for any given quality, those who start blogging earlier will gain more prominence and reap more rewards, as long as they remain continuously active.

Chris was persuaded; here is a link to Chris’s excellent blog. Among many other things he has accomplished with his blog, Chris caused Paul Krugman to write the sentences I think are most worthy of anything Paul Krugman has ever said of being included in a collection of famous quotations.