Allow me a bit of reflexivity here: I just stumbled on Felix Salmon’s discussion of blog rankings among economists. Turns out there is a first tier comprising Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen) and Freakonomics (Steve Levitt) with 70,000-plus Google subscribers each. Then there’s nothing, then there’s nothing, then there’s nothing, then you come to a second tier including Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, Mark Thoma and Econlog, between 1,000 and 2,000.
I subscribe to all of these except Freakonomics and Krugman. I don’t read Freakonomics for the same reason that I don’t read Harry Potter—everybody else does, and the marginal return of my adding my own eyes is just too small (I’ve heard Levitt do one academic presentation and he seems to be a personable and interesting guy). I don’t read Krugman because I get all I want of him from the apoplexy beat—the range of Neanderthal critics who scrape themselves off the ceiling every time he opens his mouth (reading the critics alone, I’d say that Krugman has the better of it most of the time).
I like Cowen well enough but I wouldn’t say he is 75, or even 37.5, times as good as the second tier. Indeed if I had to choose just one, I’d take Thoma—more limited, more discriminating, and therefore altogether more indispensable than any of the others.
As the comments to Salmon suggest, there may be accidental reasons why Cowen and Levitt flash across the night sky. But what intrigues me is that the numbers for DeLong and Mankiw (and, I guess, the others in the second tier) are so low. Their readers—including me—tend to treat them as if they are movers and shakers in public debate. Can you do that with a subscriber roll no bigger than a mid-sized high school? This blog stuff is all very bewildering.
And Underbelly? Oh, we are still down in the high-school-sorority dear-diary sector. I am not sure I understand the data, but the last time I looked I think I had something like 40 subscribers. My Buzzflash Mapstats give me 50-70 hits a day. Both of these numbers are big enough to make my head spin—hell, I’m not on speaking terms with 40 people, let alone 70. If they start getting any higher, I may have to do something really disgusting to cut down traffic (no, wait—disgusting might be just what it takes to raise traffic. Oh dear…).
Alright, as you were. I will resume fubsy literary chitchat shortly.
Followup: Brad (brad?) in the comments stresses that those numbers are Google subscribers only, not hits. Point taken, but they still strike me as pretty low.