Advertisers capture: Evidence from Hong Kong

I am impressed by how many very good job market papers are coming out of UCSD this year.  This work, by Onyi Lam, I expect will be some of my favorite of the entire job market season.  The underlying theme is how effectively propaganda and censorship often work through incentives and political culture, rather than outright coercion.  Here is one of the papers:

Advertisers Capture: Evidence from Hong Kong

This paper provides evidence that non-coercive political pressure on the media can be substantial. It shows that advertisers in Hong Kong engage in politically-induced advertising boycott on media that adopts a political stance which is against the mainland Chinese government policy. Using daily advertising data between 2010 and 2014, I exploit the exogenous variation of the occurrence of political events and their intensity to examine to what degree political salience affects firms’ decisions to place ads in a pro-Democracy (as opposed to pro-Beijing) newspaper, particularly so among Beijing-friendly firms. I estimate that the pro-Democracy newspaper suffered from an ad revenue loss equivalent to 21.9% of its total advertising revenue in 2014 due to political reasons.

Here is a very recent Guardian story about how the Hong Kong publishing industry is shrinking under pressure from China.  Hong Kong of course is heating up again, as China blocked two elected members from the legislature.

Here is another paper by Lam, this one being work in progress:

Measuring Subjectivity in History Textbooks (with Eddie Lin (University of Chicago))

History textbooks provide a lens through which students view the nation’s past. Government, especially that of authoritarian regime, has an incentive to present biased content in the history textbook to influence students’ political views. This paper considers the problem of measuring subjectivity history textbooks in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Using sentiment analysis, I find empirical evidence that history textbooks in mainland China exhibit stronger degree of subjectivity than history textbooks used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Specifically, the paper measures the adjective content in the textbook, the ratio of positive to negative words in specific time periods and employs word embedding method that measures distance from entities of interest such as the Chinese Communist Party.

This entire topic is understudied by economists…


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