One Year at Nominal News
It’s the first birthday of Nominal News. A short recap of our year and where do we go from here!
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As Nominal News grows larger, we will be able to make this a full-time project, and provide more content. If you would like to suggest a topic for us to cover, please leave it in the comment section.
Nominal News – First Year Review
As you may be aware, Nominal News is a 2-person team – a writer and an editor – that started in November 2022. We started Nominal News with the intent of bringing and sharing the tools and skills from an Economics PhD background and use them to discuss current economic issues. As always, my editor, to whom I am eternally grateful, has been immensely helpful with improving the clarity of the articles, as well as providing valuable insights to better understand the issues at hand.
Nominal News is currently a publication we do in our free-time (one of the reasons why we have not enabled a paid feature), but we hope that as we continue to grow, we will be able to turn this into a full-time project!
In the first year of writing, we have published 42 articles! From a personal perspective, I am quite proud of this number as I started out aiming to publish once a week and was able to follow through with it.
The most viewed articles have remained relatively constant with one newcomer tied for 3rd:
1,650 views – Inflation and Expectations (March 1, 2023) – how should we think about the recent inflationary spike and what needs to happen for it to come down.
1,440 views – Wages and Inflation (December 4, 2022) – to what extent do wages cause inflation?
610 views – Marriage Preferences and Gender Outcomes (March 26, 2023) – how partner preferences impact the glass ceiling.
610 views – Housing – Will deregulation fix everything? (April 9, 2023) – would removing zoning laws and housing regulations lead to an increase in housing supply and improve housing affordability.
In the past few months, my two part series on the Financial Times piece regarding the effects of upzoning and interpreting housing supply surveys were my most viewed posts. Both posts nearly reached 600 views.
As of this post, we now have 365 subscribers!
This neatly averages out as 1 subscriber a day, which has been great, as we did not expect such growth at all. In my previous Milestone post, it took us 9 months to reach 200 subscribers. We’ve gained 165 in the following 3 months. For that, we must thank our readers (every share, like and comment is highly appreciated) and our Substack Recommenders, who have helped grow our audience.
Learnings from an Economics Writer
The other day, I was asked by a friend several questions about Nominal News and being a writer. Below, let me share a few of the things I said.
Where does Nominal News fit?
I started Nominal News with the aim of bringing economics insights and research to the issues actively being discussed in the public. After one-year of writing and interacting in various social media, I feel the need for this type of writing and analysis is even more important.
To elaborate, having now been on X/Twitter for over a year, I feel that there is a significant lack, not of economics commentary, but specifically economics research-based commentary. To give an example – many commentators and even economists were ‘surprised’ by the fact that the rate of inflation fell without increasing unemployment. But this was not surprising at all had they looked at new working papers (discussed on Nominal News) on the topic published in the last couple of years that showed that inflation would fall without the need for a recession or increase in unemployment. Moreover, some commentators often base their opinions solely on older research, that sometimes has even been disproven or not applicable in the particular scenario (such as arguing incorrectly that wage increases cause inflation surges or that government deficit spending is inherently bad).
Economics is not a ‘hard-science’, which means many things are not as simple as A causes B. What may sound logical, upon testing with data or a better model, can turn out to be untrue. A famous example is minimum wage increases not necessarily increasing unemployment. The example that I have recently been focusing on, given what I have learned from the research on this topic, is upzoning. Often, we see comments that if we upzone, housing affordability will be resolved. But study after study shows the impacts of upzoning are very limited. This does not mean we shouldn’t do upzoning. However, we should know what to expect when we upzone and, moreover, we should strive to figure out how we can make upzoning work better. But I have rarely seen such discussions in the public sphere.
Economics is also fluid in the sense that with better data and models, we are able to offer better answers to particular questions as we can control for a wider variety of circumstances. For example, a policy that works if inflation is driven by an energy shock, might be a bad policy if the inflation is driven by a supply shock.
These developments in economics research have shown why, for example, certain policies, such as the Expanded Child Tax Credit, banning non-competes, providing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits without requirements and the Biden proposed student loan forgiveness, are policies that would benefit the wider society.
It should be understandable that economics-related questions should not be answered with ‘hot takes’. Even an economics commentator should not immediately have a very well-formed answer to every particular economic question. Researching for some of the topics I have written takes several weeks and this research should also be refreshed every once in a while to ensure it is up to date. Thus, since it takes quite a bit of time, generating valuable insights cannot be quick.
The fact that there appears to be a lack of publications that focus on thoroughly reviewing the current research and explaining it well, has given me further motivation to continue the Nominal News project. I do believe that the field of economics has a bit of a distorted reputation, in part driven by the issues just described, but economics has significant valuable insights that can contribute to our understanding of current issues.
How do we come up with topics
Another question I’ve been asked is how do we determine what to write about. Currently, I focus on what is being discussed in social media in both the academic and non-academic communities. I also check on what has been written in some of the major news outlets. Occasionally, the analysis in these news outlets is not grounded in economics or the studies cited by these news sources are significantly misinterpreted, such as in the case regarding work from home research. I also look at many current working papers produced by academics to see if there are any relevant topics to current issues.
To give a preview, my next few articles will be an update on US inflation given the recent Federal Reserve meeting, a discussion on why economic data and sentiment data point in different directions, and how to think about house prices.
Additionally, as Nominal News is meant to be insightful to you, please feel free to let us know of any topics or questions you may have, or even forward an article / paper / fact that you find interesting (feel free comment below or email us at nominalnews at gmail.com.
The Substack Network
I have also been asked about Substack. In my experience, the Substack network has been great. Not only has it been my primary readership source, but I’ve had many interesting discussions with other writers and readers, either in article comments or in Notes (a much calmer and better X/Twitter). I have had very insightful discussions with other writers, includingand (check out their Substacks). Substack also has many other great economic writers and the longer form of writing simply allows for deeper understanding. Some of the writers I read a lot:
For the next year, I intend to continue to post weekly articles and improve on consistency – both with regards to not skipping weeks and posting at a more consistent time each week. Additionally, although subscriber count is not our primary goal, we thought it would be good to set ourselves an informal subscriber count target for the next year of 1,000 subscribers. It will be interesting to see if we’re able to achieve that!
We are also always open to any feedback and suggestions about Nominal News – especially around my writing, clarity of thought, length of articles, and if there is anything additional we could do that would be helpful. Please leave a comment, email or message me via the Chat feature in Substack (I will create a discussion thread after this email comes out).
Nominal News would not be possible without you! So we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our subscribers and followers, as you are the reason we keep working and writing new articles. We hope that you find our articles useful and interesting and we are always interested in making them better for you!
Thank you for being a valued reader of Nominal News!
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch.