Thursday, October 19, 2006

The economics of blogging

What is the worth of a hobbyists' blog? The benefits derived from such a blog seem to be related mostly to utility. The cost, one might argue, is the productivity that would otherwise be created if the blogger weren't blogging.

First, there are a billion ways that blogging could raise an individual's utility. Ben Casnocha does a fantastic job expressing one such way (h/t Marginal Revolution).

...I recently had a great solo dinner in Rome. I had a terrific companion (newspaper) and good food. About 1/4 of the way through this thought crossed my mind: "This is an awesome meal. I'm going to blog it." I did. I was committed in my mind to making it a positive night overall, and it did end up that way. In sum: when I know I'm going to blog an experience, I'm committed to making it a positive experience, and since intention and reaction mostly define the quality of an experience, it usually turns out positive. True, I could always commit to having positive days each day, but knowing I will blog something introduces a weird form of "public accountability.
For whatever reason, blogging satisfies an individual's demands when no substitutes exist. Blogging raises my utility because it helps me connect my work life with my school life in the least damaging environment. My work requires me to do cursory research on current events, while my studies require me to gain a rigorous understanding of economic principles and theory. In my experience, the two don't often welcome each other. In the blogosphere I can force principle and practice to unite, which gives me the satisfactory feeling that I'm in control of my own learning experience outside of the institutions I belong to.

What are the costs associated with blogging? The nonpecuniary cost of maintaining a blog can be reasonable when the opportunity cost is small. Ninety per cent of the posts on this blog are written during the thirty minutes or so that it takes me to cool off from a morning run. In the time I spend blogging, few things in the world are better companions than my laptop, my coffee and my Shreddies (none of these things will hold my sweat and smell against me). When the opportunity cost is low to reasonable, a blogger needn't necessarily be an unproductive member of society.
Also, the nonpecuniary cost can also be affordable when the effort that it takes to produce a blog is reasonable. The effort extended to maintain this blog is (for the most part) already sunk. Since 80 per cent of the content on this blog involves material that I've researched or learned about for work or school, the marginal cost of producing each post is mostly just the effort that it takes me to reflect on what I have already read, heard, seen or studied.

While the benefits to blogging might not outweigh the costs for everyone, the net result is surely highly dependent on the blogger. This is an interesting area that I wish would be explored more. Questions lurking in my mind: Why do the Japanese have the highest propensity to blog? Further, why do Americans have a higher propensity to blog than Canadians? Is the net cost significant?

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