Today is Our Birthday!!!

Posted on April 10, 2007 by

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The final edits for The Wages of Wins were completed soon after the 2006 Super Bowl. In fact, the paragraph describing that game in Chapter Nine was the last paragraph added to the book.

In the weeks after the book was completed JC Bradbury – of Sabernomics and The Baseball Economist – suggested that we start a blog (in other words, the WOW journal is his fault). At the time, the only blog I had seen was Sabernomics and the Freakonomics blog. I had no idea how to start a blog, write for a blog, or anything else about blogs. Nevertheless, we thought it couldn’t hurt. Thankfully WordPress makes it pretty easy to get started.

The book was officially released at the end of May. Given that publication date, we decided to start the blog in April. Specifically, on April 10, 2006, the WOW Journal went on-line and the first comment was posted. So as noted, today is our anniversary.

Looking Back

I thought it might be fun to note this day by looking back on the past year. Let me start with a bit of data provided by WordPress.

Number of Posts = 335

Number of Comments = 1,483

Number of Page Views = 221,785

We are averaging nearly one post per day. Each post attracts about 4.4 comments. And per day, we have about 600 page views.

Of course some days we do better than others. On May 22, 2006, Malcolm Gladwell’s review appeared at The New Yorker’s website (the print version appeared a week later).The day before Tyler Cowen noted The Wages of Wins at Marginal Revolution. That combination pushed our page views to 1,491 on that Monday (our previous high before Cowen’s review appeared was 116 page views). The following week, on May 30, Jason Kottke at Kottke.org noted The Wages of Wins and our page views – just for that day – passed the 3,000 mark. That remains our daily record.

After the furor over the Kottke mention faded our page views failed to pass the 1,000 mark again until last November. Around that time I was asked to comment on John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. My comment led to a comment by Gladwell, a response by Hollinger, my reply, and another comment from Gladwell.

Since this event, our blog has averaged about 950 page views per day. To put that number in perspective let me refer to the ranking of economics blogs posted by Brian Gongol. Gongol has created a ranking that compares a blog’s page views – and visits – to the top economics blog. He then compares that blog ranking to a similar comparison of newspaper circulations. Consequently, Gongol can give each blog a sense of their audience size.

To see how these rankings work, let’s note that the top econ blog is The Big Picture, which has 29,878 page views per day. ElectEcon – a blog similar in size to the WOW journal – ranks 45th on the list and has about 842 page views per day. The relative size of ElectEcon to The Big Picture is similar to the circulation rates of the Argus Leader – Stacey’s local paper in Sioux Falls – relative to the USA Today.

In sum, the WOW Journal is the Argus Leader of Econ blogs, which is the same story you can tell for The Sports Economist (the other blog where I occasionally post).

If our reference group is the very top econ blogs, the WOW journal comes up quite a bit short. But for a blog strictly on sports economics, our audience appears comparable to both the Sports Economist and Sabernomics (at least before Bradbury’s book was published).

What it All Means

Okay, what does all this mean? Gregory Mankiw – who has one of the top econ blogs – has said his blog is primarily about selling his textbooks. This might be true for Mankiw, but I find it hard to believe the WOW journal has sold many copies of our book.

Our Amazon.com ranking rose above 300 (or is that below?) on two occasions. The first time was when Malcolm Gladwell’s review appeared in The New Yorker. About a month later (June 24, 2006) Joe Nocera’s review of The Wages of Wins appeared in the Saturday edition of The New York Times. That weekend The Wages of Wins became the #1 sports book at Barnes and Noble. At Amazon.com, our ranking among sports books reached #2.

Clearly the attention from the New York press had an impact. In fact, both the attention and impact caught us very much be surprise. It’s important to remember that The Wages of Wins was published by Stanford Press. Stanford Press is a university press, not a major commercial publisher. For a book from a university press to garner this much attention is a bit unusual. So we were more than a bit surprised when our book was briefly ranked so high.

According to Gongol, the New York Times has a daily circulation of 1.6 million. Clearly this dwarfs the viewership we see at the top econ blogs or in this forum. Consequently it’s not surprising that the on-line conversations on this book do not have much impact on our sales.

So if the blog is not helping book sales, why keep this venture going? When I asked Marty what we should say to mark our anniversary he sent back a one word answer: “good-bye.” My wife very much echoes that sentiment. Both Marty and my wife see the WOW journal as a waste of time that detracts from my academic research.

I am not prepared to admit that the blog has reduced my research output. In the last six months I have submitted two papers for publication and completed two book chapters for academic collections. Furthermore, writing for the blog may have actually helped my research. Both PAWS and PAWSmin – at least these names — came about because of this blog. And then there is… okay, not sure I can think of anything else. But I am sure if we went over all the writing I have done for the WOW Journal there is something else that has helped my academic research.

Beyond the research value is the issue of when I write. My children go to bed at 8:45 each night. My wife likes to read until 9:30pm. For those 45 minutes, I have very little to do besides working on this blog. In other words, I am unlikely to write a journal article in these 45 minutes, but I can easily compose a blog entry in that time.

Plus, the blog gives me a reason to look at issues that would never be addressed in an academic article. In the past few weeks I have looked at why the Spurs, Mavericks, and Suns are good teams, why the Memphis Grizzlies became a bad team, and why Kevin Martin is not the most improved player in the league. Certainly I could look at these topics without writing a blog entry, but then I would just be “wasting my time.” The blog gives me a reason to look at stuff that I would look at anyways, but this way I feel like I am actually “doing something.”

As long as this is the case, I think The Wages of Wins Journal should continue. As I noted a few weeks ago, my teaching schedule this quarter means entries here will be less frequent. In eight weeks, though, the spring quarter at CSUB will end and I might have the time to do daily entries again.

What, though, should I write about?

Let me open this up to the people who have taken time out of their day to look at this site. What analysis would you like to see Stacey or I do? Please let me know in the comment section.

I do not know when I or Stacey will get to these requests, but hopefully I will find plenty of time when this quarter is completed. In the meantime, thanks to everyone for stopping by and hopefully the second year of this venture will be as much fun as the first.

– DJ

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