Blogonomics: Ed Glaeser Is Too a Blogger

Ed Glaeser reads Market Movers! In my post last week about Tyler

Cowen on blogonomics, I quoted Cowen on Glaeser, saying that he’s basically

a blogger even if he doesn’t realise it. Glaeser

has now responded – a very bloggish thing to do – and

he’s responded in exactly the venue that Cowen considers to be Glaeser’s blog,

the New York Sun.

Now Glaeser isn’t a big consumer of blogs (he thinks that my blog was by Cowen,

and he gets the name of Cowen’s blog wrong), and he’s determined to draw a distinction

between bloggers, on the one hand, and columnists, on the other – placing

himself in the latter camp, of course.

But precisely because Glaeser isn’t a big consumer of blogs, he doesn’t

really understand the full range of what a blog can be. Glaeser knows Marginal

Revolution and the Freakonomics blog, and as a result he reckons that all blogs

are chatty and informal and frequently-updated. Try telling that to Willem

Buiter. Indeed, Glaeser all but describes a great blogger as he tries to

define himself as someone who isn’t one:

The Sun gives me a chance to cheer Mayor Bloomberg, when he pushes for congestion

pricing, and Dan Doctoroff, when he supports the new construction that New

York so badly needs, and Joel Klein, when he battles for incentives and accountability

in New York’s schools. The Sun also allows me to disagree with Tom Wolfe,

when he tries to disguise naked NIMBYism in the mantle of good government,

and Governor Spitzer, when he supports quixotic spending on Buffalo’s infrastructure

instead of Buffalo’s schools…

While I am flattered by Mr. Cowen’s describing me as a blogger, I am much

more of an old school columnist. My nineteenth century soul limits my ability

to use the easy conversational style of the great blogs. I have no inclination

to write on a daily basis…

The Sun’s website gets more than one million different visitors each month,

and the paper circulates more than 100,000 copies a day, centering in Manhattan.

I am pretty sure that my parents have never read a blog, but they certainly

read the Sun. The Sun’s readers include some of the most discerning New Yorkers

and some of its most potent policy-makers and even a few people who fit in

both categories.

One of the rewards of writing for the Sun is that I often get a response from

the civic leaders who read the paper.

What we have here is a man with opinions who likes to respond to the provocations

of others, and be responded to in turn. That’s blogging. Indeed, Glaeser’s

"nineteenth century soul" is perfectly suited to blogging:

the pamphleteers of the Victorian era were bloggers avant la lettre,

and blogging is, in many ways, simply pamphleteering with a lower barrier to


Since Glaeser is obviously interested in what Cowen has to say about him, let

me provide a bit more context, and quote Cowen’s passage in full.

There’s a lot of blogging going on that doesn’t look like blogging, but I

think it really should be thought of as blogging. Have you heard of an economist

named Ed Glaeser? He will be famous to any economist. I’d say Ed Glaeser is

one of the five or ten hottest economists today. Some people would put him

at number one: Ed

Glaeser’s a big deal. He’s a big name, a tenured professor at Harvard.

Very recently, Ed Glaeser wrote a book review for a newspaper called the New

York Sun. How many of you here have heard of the New York Sun? A few of you,

but most of you haven’t. And those of you who have heard of it will probably

know that in terms of its reputational value, it’s hardly at the top of the

newspaper market. It’s not like writing for the Los Angeles Times in terms

of readership or reputation.

So why is Ed Glaeser writing for the New York Sun? I haven’t asked him, but

I believe the answer is that Ed Glaeser essentially is blogging, when he writes

for the New York Sun. He doesn’t call it blogging, he doesn’t have a full-time

blog. But when Ed Glaeser writes for the New York Sun, every major economics

blog links to his piece and excerpts it, and everyone who reads all those

economics blogs reads Ed Glaeser. So Ed Glaeser is now writing for the Sun

because that is Ed Glaeser blogging. It just doesn’t look that way. And without

blogs I can’t imagine it makes sense for Ed Glaeser to do that.

Now Glaeser and Cowen will probably have to agree to disagree on the reputational

value of writing for the New York Sun. But it doesn’t matter, because look

where Glaeser’s turned up now: in City Journal, a periodical which makes

the Sun look mass-market. Since his article appeared there, a

blog search on "glaeser buffalo" turns up 168 different people

who have linked to his piece (including Mankiw

and Cowen),

who between them have given his article orders of magnitude more readers than

will ever pick up a physical copy of the magazine.

Is it possible that Glaeser would write for the Sun if its website didn’t have

a million uniques? Is it conceivable that Glaeser would write for City Journal

if it wasn’t online and the likes of Mankiw and Cowen couldn’t link to him?

I’m not sure: at that point, Glaeser would probably have more influence simply

setting up a bare-bones website of his own and posting stuff there very occasionally.

And we all know what that kind of a website is called.

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