There was a weird story earlier this week where an economist accused Paul Krugman of copying his stuff.
Paul Krugman has posted a response, saying that he had hardly ever read the work of the economist making the accusation.
At the end Krugman ends with some great advice (via Matt O’Brien):
What every economist, and for that matter every writer on any subject, needs to realise is that unless you are a powerful person and people are looking for clues about what you’ll do next, nobody has to read what you write — and lecturing them about what they’re missing doesn’t help. You have to provide the hook, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, that pulls them in. It’s part of the job.
It’s not enough to just be smart, or right, or even interesting. Unless you’re already famous, getting people to read your writing involves salesmanship.
This salesmanship obviously can take all kinds of forms: clear headlines, timeliness, social promotion (tweeting, etc.), powerful images to accompany the writing, and so forth.
Human attention span is a finite resource, and every day you have to stake your claim to some slice of that resource if you want your writing to be read (if you’re just writing for yourself, then obviously none of this applies).
Krugman, funnily enough, counts as someone who people would feel compelled to read no matter what (you know, the Nobel Prize) yet he’s tremendous at writing for clarity, in a timely manner, and at a regular enough clip so people are trained to come back.
It’s a great lesson for everyone to take to heart.