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Saturday, May 26, 2012

On Moving to Forbes, or Not

Modeled Behavior has moved to Forbes, so I guess I should say that I have a blog there too. But I am not moving the blog, and no content will appear on the Forbes site that doesn't also appear here. My plan is to repost a small subset of the things that are posted at this blog each month, and nothing more (they are fully aware of my plans).

I have had many offers to move the blog over the years, and the first few were tempting (I think the Big Think was the first). However, though one should never say never, it's not moving. It took years of long, hard days to build this up to whatever meager status it might have attained (I try not to fool myself about how much influence it actually has), and I am not going to put that at risk by moving it somewhere else.

I could probably make a bit of money by moving, and I could also make quite a bit simply by pushing traffic to the Forbes blog. So if you want to show up there, interact in the comments thread, whatever, great. I'll make the most by far if you return a second time. But I am not going to do anything to encourage such behavior.

(On other outlets -- I don't make a dime more or less based upon traffic for my Fiscal Times columns, but they ask me not to reprint the columns on my blog and I honor that -- so not printing them here, except with a lag for the ones I think you'll be interested in, has nothing to do with making money for myself. I do get paid based upon traffic to the CBS stories I write, though not that much, and they have never protested when I reprint them here -- they have a huge traffic base to draw from already. So I try to dual post CBS stories whenever I think the story will be of interest. There are times when I don't post the whole story, just the title and a link, but that's usually when I write about something the editors suggest rather than something of my own choice, and I don't think there will be a lot of interest here.)

More generally, I could probably make a bit of spending money each month by placing ads on my blog. But I haven't done that, and I have no plans to do so. Why? Several reasons. For one, the state of Oregon pays me to educate the public (the education mission does not end with students, it's much more general than that, something too few professors understand). So I already get paid to do this. I suppose I should try to make enough to cover blog hosting fees, all the magazine and newspaper subscriptions I've added, and so on -- to at least break even -- but I haven't done that (and there are plenty of other perks, e.g. I'll be traveling to Kenya in a couple of weeks for a 10-day visit to report on economic conditions, we'll travel to quite a few areas of the country, more on this soon, and then on to this year's Nobel meetings in Lindau, Germany for a week all because of the blog -- and the costs are mostly covered by others so I have nothing to complain about).

But the fact that I am already paid to educate the public, and get credit from the Department and University for doing so, is not the biggest reason for the no-ads approach. Economists talk about incentives and how they affect behavior, and ads push me in directions I'd rather not go. As soon as I start trying to maximize monetary gains rather than maximizing education, it changes the posts  -- the incentives are not well aligned. I become shriller, I find myself tempted by things that will attract lots of eyeballs even if they aren't as solid as they might be, and so on. It changes the posts in ways I don't want them to change, so it's best that I leave that temptation lying on the table (though I am far from perfect). Brad DeLong told me something important when I started -- don't write to your sitemeter. Check it once a week if you must (he suggested Saturday), but don't get trapped into writing to the ebb and flow of traffic or it will drive you nuts. Instead, write what you know best, that's what people want to read. It was great advice, at least for me. I follow inbound traffic closely -- where people are coming from -- but I haven't looked at daily traffic numbers for several years. I still have pretty good idea of what they are, but it's a bit vague and that is best for me.

Since I'm at this, one more thing. This blog has no color, it's blue and white mostly, there's a ton of wasted space in the header, etc., and every so often I think I should do a big redesign. However, I don't because I'm worried about changing from a somewhat colorless, dumpy looking blog would change its identity. I want it to look like what it is, a professor with a blog who is trying to help people understand economics and policy. It's not intended as a flashy, commercial, money-making device and giving it that look may rebrand it in a way that is harmful. So I haven't done much to add color and flare to the design (though I am still thinking I ought to try to make a few changes if I can ever find the time, but it's working as it is, pretty much, so why change?).

Finally, the blog at Forbes has been ready for a few days, but I haven't posted anything there yet (here's the address: http://blogs.forbes.com/markthoma/ ). I suppose I should let you know when I do post something, and if you want to click through and take a look, great. If not, you won't miss a thing. The reason I said yes is very simple to explain -- I saw it as a chance to extend the reach of the blog to more people. That's why I am only interested in reprinting content from here (and also why I allow the rss feed to be used freely by SeekingAlpha and RGE type aggregators). It allows me to potentially reach a few more people, and not necessarily be preaching to the already converted, which is important, without changing anything that I do here. The last thing I want to do is to make a move that might undermine Economist's View in any way whatsoever, and I hope this approach will meet that non-negotiable condition.

    Posted by on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 11:07 AM in Economics, Weblogs | Permalink  Comments (48)


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