The economics of magazines, and their economists

Arnold Kling criticizes National Review magazine, but don’t bother working through the argument.  It will only make your head hurt.  Perhaps you have read Brad DeLong on NR as well.  Arnold suggests that:

NRO clean out its stable of economics writers and instead choose from some of the other bloggers around. James Hamilton or Andrew Samwick or Russ Roberts or Don Boudreaux or Tyler Cowen or Alex Tabarrok.

I have not been reading NR, so I will not offer an independent assesssment.  But consider the basic economics.  Most popular political magazines live and die by direct mail.  The "burn rate" of non-renewals is very high, and either advertisers or donors will care about subscription numbers.  So new subscribers must be found frequently (NB: the real culprit is lack of loyalty of previous subscribers).  Given their natural constituencies, that makes it hard for a right-wing magazine to come out against George Bush.  The tendency is toward boosterism and taking sides.  That is one reason why I — a "small l" libertarian who preferred the economic policies of the Clinton years — am unlikely to receive some particular writing assignments.

On average "out of power" magazines (Reason, American Prospect) should be better than "in power" magazines.  But if NR, or NRO, wants a piece on how the Bush years have eaten into our economic, political, and institutional capital, I would be happy to oblige.


Comments for this post are closed