September 9, 2011
Empirical Evidence on the Impact of Blogging
David McKenzie & Berk Ozler have posted The Impact of Economics Blogs on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
There is a proliferation of economics blogs, with increasing numbers of economists attracting large numbers of readers, yet little is known about the impact of this new medium. Using a variety of experimental and non-experimental techniques, this study quantifies some of their effects. First, links from blogs cause a striking increase in the number of abstract views and downloads of economics papers. Second, blogging raises the profile of the blogger (and his or her institution) and boosts their reputation above economists with similar publication records. Finally, a blog can transform attitudes about some of the topics it covers.
I'm curious if this holds true for Business Law Bloggers, too. My suspicion is that the findings would hold true across disciplines or at least many disciplines. As the authors explain:
This evidence is . . . consistent with the view that blogging helps build prestige and recognition in the profession, with bloggers being more likely to be admired or respected than other academics of similar (or in many cases better) publication records. This is of course only a correlation, and there are several caveats to consider. First, to the extent that blogging serves to increase the RePEc ratings by increasing downloads (as seen in the previous section) and citations, the observed correlation will be a lower bound on the causal impact of blogging. However, if bloggers are also more likely to be engaged in other activities of a public intellectual, such as media appearances, writing books etc., and if these don't all arise directly as a result of blogging, the estimates will conflate the impact of blogging with the impacts of these other activities, thereby overstating the impact of blogs. Nevertheless, given the large magnitude of the coefficient observed, it does not seem likely that all of the observed impact of blogging just reflects omitted variables, and therefore we view this evidence as strongly suggesting that blogging increases the influence, respect, or public image of the blogger. [footnote omitted]
There is always the risk a prolific blogger will get a greater (and disproportionate) share of recognition for being more "out there" more often than a non-blogging colleague. That said, a consistent, if not prolific, blogger who has a similar publication record may be more connected to current events in his or her profession. And blogging demonstrates a willingness and ability to share opinions (for better or worse).
Blogging can't, and shouldn't, replace other forms of scholarship. But in addition to tradtional scholarship, it adds to the overall depth, and especially breadth, of knowledge. At least, it does for me. I truly believe my scholarship and my teaching have improved because of blogging, even if, sometimes, it feels like a lot of "extra" work. As long as it is making me better at what I do, it's work I need to do.