Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The economics of blogging

Lets have a look see at why people run blogs.

Primarily, if logic is any consideration, its so other people will read them - with all the happy psychological social status things that go with that.

Otherwise, it just dont make any sense.

But, unless we arent just talking about forcing your mother and defenseless grandpa to read it - who and how many people who read it becomes important. Theres a limited number of people who read blogs - just like any other good. The scarcity here is non-infinite time of the readers. (Of course it gets more complex, any particular blog appeals to a sub-set of readers only and since blogs have a negligible profit motive, the blogger will write more about topics that interest himself rather than pandering to the readers interest)[1]

For whatever topic you are interested in, there are other bloggers out there writing in a similar vein. So the glorious battle for readership begins. And then, as is the tendency, the bloggers who cannot sustain a readers attention, whether through bad writing styles or unattractive topics vis-a-vis his competition will receive less reinforcement - aka fewer readers, less reason to have a blog.

Speaking for myself, even getting two comments on my blog was a happy moment. The idea of someone Ive never met, will never know and who will never know me, being intrigued by my writings is a real ego booster.

To draw a parallel with economics, blogging is not a zero-sum game. The amount of social prestige (or whatever term you prefer) isnt just shifted away from other sources. There is a greater level of it overall (though there are still losers and winners relatively). I'll explain -

Before we had mostly one-to-one communication - Telephones are a good example. Then technology gave us One to many communications - The Mass-Media. Now even more advanced technology has given us many-to-many communications - You read my blog, I can read yours too.[2]

Under the One-to-many system, the prestige was one way. The pundit on TV was the pundit on TV. Period.

Under the Many-to-Many system, the pundit is the blogger but the commentator can expound the bloggers points, add to them, and perhaps convince other commentators or readers to check out his views on other topics - in essence become a pundit himself (even in the eyes of the original pundit).

Just goes to show that Economics, as Thomas Sowell says, is a way of thinking rather than a body of knowledge.

[1] There will of course be some pandering, but in the Mainstream Media the currency gain from pandering is not that limited - more money is always better. But in blogging the gain is measured psychologically - and people (bloggers) can get their psychological kicks elsewhere.

[2] John Walker of has a long article on this somewhere on his site.


Spungen said...

I don't think potential readers are always the primary motivation. Some people just like to write. And there's a little thrill to putting it out there on a blog, anonymously. I had a blog for a while where I just wrote whenever I got mad about something. But I wasn't really expecting anyone to read it, and would not have wanted anyone who knew me to find it. I tried to avoid leaving links to it anywhere. I just liked the idea that someone else could read it.

MensaRefugee said...

In my Blog calculus, that kind of a blog is called a "Myspace" account.

But of course I see your point. But I think its still fundamentally valid that the better blogs, or more thought out blogs follow the laws of economics. And that would have implications for er... blogology - The scientific study of blogs :)

Half Sigma said...

I think that, perhaps, the "prestige" of having a lot of people read your blog is akin to the "prestige" of being level 75 in World of Warcraft.

It's a prestige that's not useful in the real world.

MensaRefugee said...

Irrelevent HS,
You are right of course. However the point is, given that that prestige exists. It constrains the number thereof and/or work people put into their blogs.

And, to take it to an extreme - a good chunk of Newspapers reporters are in the journalism business for that same type of prestige.

TabooTruth said...

That's some interesting analysis of the motivation behind blogs, and I think its generally true, from Steve Sailer to my insignificant blog.

You can also relate it to people commenting and posting on other people's myspace and facebook walls. It's interesting how the internet continually evolves to connect people and make them feel wanted.

Anonymous said...

Found you via

You can chalk this comment up as an ego booster!


Anonymous said...

Half Sigma - a good World of Warcraft rating isnt much good in the real world.

A blog thats doing well though can motivate people, be a catalyst etc. That can change the real world especially if a lot of people are involved.