Blogonomics: Going Pro

Megan McArdle reckons that econoblogging has become professionalized:

All of the high-traffic economics bloggers I read are either professors, in some similarly rewarding profession, or already tied up by a media organization…

I’m not sure what this means for the blogging world. It’s still largely an amateur medium, but it’s hard to see how many new bloggers can compete with someone who gets paid to do it, unless they are independently wealthy or have a job, like journalism or academia, that routinely throws them a lot of bloggable material. Will it become as hard to break into blogging as it is to break into print?

I think this misses two big points. Firstly, bloggers don’t "compete with" each other. Sure, some bloggers get more traffic than others, but increasing the number of blogs only serves to increase the total amount of traffic. I welcome every new entrant into the econoblogosphere, largely out of purely selfish reasons: it broadens the conversation and gives me more to blog about; and it also, at the margin, means more traffic and attention for me.

What’s more, as the number of econobloggers increases, the number of people able to discover a new blogger increases as well. The barriers to entry are as low as they’ve ever been: blogging is still basically free. And as McArdle herself recognises, the demand for econobloggers is constantly growing – she and I are regularly asked to recommend people for paid positions, and neither of us has a lot of bright ideas on that front. Just starting an econoblog is pretty much enough, these days, to get you onto most shortlists.

More encouragingly still, demand for econobloggers is not from people who want to buy existing traffic, but rather from people who want to buy talent. You don’t need to be a "high-traffic econoblogger" to be attractive to the kind of people who are looking to hire these days: you just need to be good at blogging. For the first time, bloggers (McArdle and myself included) can get major corporate backing for their blogs – something which gives us the money to be able to do it full-time, and which is also a built-in source of traffic.

So is it getting harder to break into blogging? Actually, I suspect it’s getting easier. My guess is that John Jansen, of Across the Curve, will be snapped up pretty soon by someone wanting to publish intelligent bond-market commentary of the kind that very few journalists would ever be able to write. He hasn’t been blogging for long, but people like him don’t need to blog for long before their abilities become clear. And he doesn’t need a big readership to get that kind of job, he just needs to come to the attention of the kind of people whose job it is to keep an eye on the blogosphere, looking for talent. Yes, econoblogging is increasingly a paid job. But that doesn’t make it tough to break into, if you have the ability.

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