Skip to content

Tyler Cowen on Writing on the Internet, and Network Value Creation

I love it when people describe writing a blog, or writing on the internet, as “popularizing” economics or something similar.  That is a sign they don’t understand what is going on, that they don’t understand there is such a thing as “internet economics,” and also a sign they will not be effective competition.  It’s really about “the internet way of writing and communicating” vs. non-internet methods.  The internet methods may or may not be popular, and may or may not be geared toward a wide audience, so they are not the same as popularizing.  One point of the internet is to find an outlet for super-unpopular material.  What’s important right now is to develop internet methods of thinking and communicating, and not to obsess over reaching the largest possible numbers of people.

I find it rewarding to pursue this vision because even low-level success implies a much larger and smarter audience than I ever thought I would have given my expectations growing up.  I don’t feel much risk of downside, and thus my morale and energy levels remain high.

I won’t ever reach the moon, but planet earth is interesting enough.

… let me go small scale and lay out the “moonshot” I have tried to take with my own career.  My goal is to be the economist who has most successfully used the internet as a platform to foment broad enlightenment.

As I see it, the internet is changing everything, and most intellectuals (and also businesspeople) still are underestimating the import of this reality.  That’s bad for me as a consumer, but it gives me an edge as a producer, namely the competition is limited.  This advantage is heightened by the fact that academia does not reward internet communication per se.

My method has been to invest in as wide an economics and intellectual product line as is possible, often with co-authors and co-creators (Alex Tabarrok and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University most significantly). 

The overall portfolio includes:

Marginal Revolution (blog, post every day for 14 years)
Marginal Revolution University (ranked second among YouTube channels in economics education)
– Twitter (@tylercowen)
– Talks on YouTube, often resulting from talks I gave publicly
Conversations with Tyler (podcast with transcripts)
“Trade” books, one about every two years (not quite an internet product, at least I hope not!)
– An economics principles textbook, micro and macro (includes a frequently used on-line portal; by the way, I give Alex most of the credit here).
Columns, often on economic policy (for the Bloomberg terminal and website, twice a week)
– Responding to the emails I receive (an underrated and relatively influential activity)

My view, or at least hope, is that these diverse outputs exploit two synergies.  First, my work in any one of these areas publicizes what I am doing in the others.  Second, what I learn from each task boosts my productivity in the others.  Overall, I think of these activities as a kind of collective intellectual blitzkrieg. 

Tyler Cowen – The Bridge – Mercatus Centre Blog

See Also:

Trilogy: Books as Network
Marvel MCU Movies as a value creating network
Network Opportunities
Scrapbook: Clay Shirky, Niall Ferguson – a spot of network theory
Recommendation: Matthew O. Jackson on The Human Network

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...