Four years ago, Market Power started as a whim to get people interested in economics. Now it's actually growing a community! And since there's a community, I thought it would be good to keep you updated on my vision. So this is my first annual report on Market Power. I'll review my most overrated video, why there were fewer videos this year, what I'm doing in 2023, and finally my most underrated videos (which you should totally watch).
Going Viral - My Most Overrated Video
One of the coolest things for the channel happened in February. It was also one of the worst.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to experiment with short-form content since it's such a growing market. I had an idea of what kind of videos succeed there, so I experimented with a few. They were so easy to make, that I figured it wasn't a huge cost. Amazingly, it only took four videos to succeed. And the success was unreal.
I made a silly video on how to use the expected payout of a MrBeast contest to calculate the probability that you'll win a prize. It's not well made, and I made some mistakes in the calculation (it's still relatively correct). But within a week it started going viral. At one point, it was being watched over 40,000 times an hour. Today, it has 6.8 million total views. The ROI was huge, and it was a fun moment.
But it wasn't all positive. I think the success actually hurt my channel. The video got me over 13,000 new subscribers. But a subscriber who enjoyed a 43 second video about MrBeast is unlikely to watch an 8 minute video on what we know about global poverty. I know this because while that video blew up, my long-form content had zero change. And since they don't watch my long-form videos, YouTube thinks that people aren't interested, and my videos don't spread.
If I have to choose between short-form and long-form, I'm going for long-form. While I think people can teach economics in short-form, and while there are lots of views available in short-form, I'm not just interested in views. Ideally, Market Power becomes a community for people interested in economics. And I see long-form as the path to community.
Where are the videos?
Over the years, my posting frequency has declined, but this year it slowed down significantly. My first full year of videos, 2019, I posted about 100. I can't believe I was posting twice a week back then! In 2020, I posted 68, which was one a week plus a few weeks with extra. By 2021, the number of videos had dropped to 47, which is just shy of one a week. This year, not counting the shorts, it was only 17, which is barely more than one a month.
Well, my 9 year-old daughter was reading this as I was writing it, and she decided to analyze how I spend my time.
She's pretty close. Let me translate for you.
The biggest contributor to the decline was my research. Market Power is not my full-time job. I'm a university professor, and while my bosses think my channel is cool, career advancement is mostly determined by research. Specifically, in 2023 I will be trying to get tenure. This means that 2023 is the year that my university decides whether I can keep my job or not. So I spent 2022 doing everything I could to make sure they want to say yes. That meant more research and less YouTube.
The good news is that the strategy worked. My research has gone really well, and I'm excited to say that I am really pushing the frontiers on the economic history of Haiti. I'm proud of what I've accomplished.
But it wasn't without a cost. On the bright side, the channel is stable. Even though I published 64% fewer videos, my views only dropped by 15%. That means the marginal video in 2022 was much higher than the marginal video in 2021. But we also need to consider the counterfactual: if I had put more effort into this year's videos (and less into research) then where would the channel be today?
That brings me to the future.
Plans for 2023
Where's Market Power going in 2023? Let me explain where I see my comparative advantage.
The biggest source of growth for my channel has been students interested in majoring in economics. Two of my top three videos are on majoring in economics, and the third one is about books in economics. I love that I have been a resource for students, but I think Market Power has the potential to do even more.
I want to make more content that will appeal to a broader audience. Being a resource for economics students is great, but those students already know that economics is cool. I want to grab the people who don't realize that economics is amazing. I want to make videos that both help people learn more economics and change the way people are introduced to economics.
What kind of videos will help me accomplish both those goals?
One strategy would be to focus on macroeconomics. Macroeconomics has been so reliably successful that xkcd's 2010 map of online communities contains an island just off of YouTube inhabited by teenagers who just discovered macroeconomics.
But there's a problem: I'm not a macroeconomist. I don't think I could do justice on macroeconomic topics. Even though it's popular, it's not my comparative advantage. And I'm worried that I would do more harm than good. So that's off the list.
I feel the same about finance. Whenever I tell people I make economics videos, they suggest finance topics. But at least I've studied macroeconomics. I've never taken a finance class in my life! Not a good idea.
So what can I do? Well, I think the biggest and most important question in economics is, "Why are some countries rich and some countries poor?" And I think that's a question that resonates with a lot of people, whether they know economics or not. And, fortunately, I'm a development economist, and I think I have some answers for people.
Surprisingly, when I look around YouTube, there are not a lot of videos on development economics. And the ones I have found are really bad. This is where I can contribute.
So in 2023, you can look forward to more videos on what I think are the most interesting questions in economics. I won't be posting once a week, but I hope to post consistent, quality content. I'm sure I'll throw in the occasional video on being an economics student (in fact, my first video of the year will be in this vein), and I’ll probably use this newsletter to share some of those insights. But my main goal is talking more about big ideas.
My Most Underrated Videos of 2022
I think the single most underrated video of the year was the story of Disney killing its business model based on an economic calculation. I thought for sure this would be a huge hit, but since it wasn't a video on how to be an economics student, it flopped. If you missed it, go check it out.
But given the direction of the channel, I think another underrated video was our big mistake about education in poor countries. Not only will this video give you a flavor of what I'm hoping to do in 2023, it will help you think about development policy and its unintended consequences.
Great job Craig and yes you should focus most on where you have the comparative, and competitive (a little business lingo there) advantage.
Actually if you look at YouTube there are not a lot of very good economic long term growth focused channels. A related example is China videos (something I do follow as well as macro) - there are a lot of very good China politics/history/ foreign affairs channels from real China experts but not that much going deep into the topic of the nuts and bolts of China economic growth.
Excited to see the new videos. I think you could get some views on Acemoglu and Robinson's books. They're popular and there really isn't much about them. Maybe their debate with Sachs as well