Research

Publications in refereed journals

"The Production of Information in an Online World" with Nicolas Hervé (INA) and Marie-Luce Viaud (INA), Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming.

News production requires investment, and competitors’ ability to appropriate a story may reduce a media’s incentives to provide original content. Yet, there is little legal protection of intellectual property rights in online news production, which raises the issue of the extent of copying online and the incentives to provide original content. In this paper, we build a unique dataset combining all the online content produced by French news media during the year 2013 with new micro audience data. We develop a topic detection algorithm that identifies each news event, trace the timeline of each story, and study news propagation. We provide new evidence on online news production. First, we document high reactivity of online media: one quarter of the news stories are reproduced online in under 4 minutes. We show that this is accompanied by substantial copying, both at the extensive and at the intensive margins, which may constitute a severe threat to the commercial viability of the news media. Next, we estimate the returns to originality in online news production. Using article-level variations and media-level daily audience combined with article-level social media statistics, we find that original content producers tend to receive more viewers, thereby mitigating the newsgathering incentive problem raised by copying.

“Media Competition, Information Provision and Political Participation: Evidence from French Local Newspapers and Elections, 1944-2014”, Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming.

This paper investigates the impact of increased media competition on the quantity and quality of news provided and, ultimately, on political participation. I build a new county-level panel dataset of local newspaper presence, newspapers’ number of journalists, costs and revenues and political turnout in France, from 1944 to 2014. I estimate the effect of newspaper entry by comparing counties that experience entry to similar counties in the same years that do not. Both sets of counties exhibit similar trends prior to entry, but those with entry experience substantial declines in the average number of journalists. An increased number of newspapers is also associated with fewer articles and less hard news provision. Newspaper entry, and the associated decline in information provision, is ultimately found to decrease voter turnout at local elections. Exploiting the long time span covered by my data, I discuss a number of mechanisms that may drive these empirical findings. First, I examine the relationship between increased competition and media capture in the aftermath of WW2, when newspapers were biased and the advertising market was underdeveloped. I then show that in the recent period the effects are stronger in counties with more homogeneous populations, as predicted by a vertical product differentiation framework, whereas there is little impact in counties with more heterogeneous populations.

"Sex and the Mission: The Conflicting Effects of Early Christian Investments on sub-Saharan Africa's HIV Epidemic" with Valeria Rueda, Journal of Demographic Economics, forthcoming.

"Newspapers in Times of Low Advertising Revenues" with Charles Angelucci, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 2019, 11(3): 319-364.

We  model  the  consequences  on  newspapers’  content  and  prices  of  a  reduction  in  advertising  revenues.  Newspapers  choose  the  size  of  their  newsroom,  and  readers  are  heterogeneous  in  their  ideal  amount  of    journalistic-intensive  content.  We  show  that  a  reduction  in  advertising  revenues  lowers  newspapers’  incentives  to  pro-duce  journalistic-intensive  content.  We  also  build  a  unique  dataset  on  French  newspapers  between  1960  and  1974  and  perform  a  difference-in-differences   analysis   exploiting   the   introduction   of   advertising on television, which affected national newspapers more severely than local ones. We find robust evidence of a decrease in the amount of  journalistic-intensive content produced and the subscription price.

"Tax Revenues and the Fiscal Cost of Trade Liberalization, 1792-2006" with Lucie Gadenne, Explorations in Economic History, 2018, 70: 1-24.

"Taxation, Corruption and Growth" with P. Aghion, U. Akcigit and W. Kerr, European Economic Review, 2016, 86: 24-51.

"The Long-Term Effects of the Printing Press in sub-Saharan Africa" with Valeria Rueda, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2016, 8(3): 69-99.

"Improving 'National Brands': Reputation for Quality and Export Promotion Policies" with Dorothée Rouzet, Journal of International Economics, 2015, 95(2): 274-290.

"Improving upon the World Bank's Country Policy and Institutional Assessment: A New Performance Indicator Based on Aid Effectiveness", Journal of Globalization and Development, 2014, 5(2): 213-233.

Books

Le prix de la démocratie, Paris, Fayard, 2018.

English translation: Harvard University Press, 2020.
Other translations: China (The Commercial Press, forthcoming), Taiwan (China Times Publishing Company, forthcoming).
The book was awarded a “Prix Ethique” by Anticor, an association that combats corruption and helps restore ethics in politics. 
The book was awarded the 8th edition of the “Prix Pétrarque de l’Essai France Culture-Le Monde”.

L’information à tout prix, with Nicolas Hervé and Marie-Luce Viaud. Paris, Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, 2017.

Other translations: China (CITIC Press Corporation), Germany (BECK Verlag), Italy (Bompiani), Japan (Tokuma Shoten), Korea (Geulhangari Publishers), Portugal (Temas e debates), Romania (Comunicare.ro), Serbia (Akademska Knjiga), Spain (Anagrama), Turkey (Kültür).

The book was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Best Book on Media of the 2016 edition of the “Prix des Assises du Journalisme”.

Chapters in books & White papers

"Protecting Journalism in the Age of Digital Platforms" (with J. Gans, E. Goodman, B. Knight, A. Prat, G. Rolnik, and A. Schiffrin), 2019. Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State (University of Chicago Booth School of Business).

"From Philanthropy to Democracy: Rethinking Governance and Funding of High-Quality News in the Digital Age". In: Digital Technologies and Democratic Theory (forthcoming), Lucy Bernholz, Landemore, Hélène and Reich, Rob.

"The Devil is in the Detail: Christian Missions’ Heterogeneous Effects on Development in sub-Saharan Africa" (with Valeria Rueda). In: The Long Economic and Political Shadow of History (2017), Stelios Michalopoulos and Papaioannou, Elias, p.98-109. CEPR Press (VOX eBook).

"The Economics of the African Media". In: The Oxford Handbook of Africa and Economics (2015), Célestin Mongan and Lin, Justin, p. 605-625. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

"Measuring Policy Performance: Can we do Better than the World Bank?". In: Industrial Policy and Economic Transformation in Africa (2015), Akbar Noman and Stiglitz, Joseph, p. 268-292. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

Research Papers

"The Heterogeneous Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993-2014" with Yasmine Bekkouche (Paris School of Economics).

What is the impact of campaign spending on votes? Does it vary across election types and across political parties? Estimating these effects requires comprehensive data on spending across candidates, parties and elections, as well as identification strategies that successfully deal with the endogeneity of campaign spending. We provide novel contributions in both of these areas. We build a new comprehensive dataset of all French municipal and legislative elections over the 1993-2014 period. We propose two new instruments to overcome the endogenous nature of campaign spending; they rely on the fact that candidates are differentially affected by regulation on campaign funding depending on the source of funding they depend on the most. We find that an increase in spending per voter consistently increases a candidate’s vote share both for municipal and legislative elections, and that the effect is heterogeneous depending on the party. In particular, we show that spending by extreme-right candidates has much lower returns than spending by other parties. Our findings help reconcile the conflicting results of the existing literature, and improve our understanding of the mechanisms at play.

CEPR Discussion Paper #12614 (updated version: July 2019)

Media coverage: Le MondeInstitute for New Economic ThinkingVOX

“Media Competition and News Diets” with Charles Angelucci (Columbia University) and Michael Sinkinson (Yale University)

News media operate in two-sided markets, offering bundles of content to readers as well as selling readers’ attention to advertisers. Technological innovations in content delivery, such as the advent of broadcast television or of the Internet, affect both sides of the market, threatening the basic economic model of print news operations. We examine how the entry of television affected local newspapers as well as consumer media diets in the United States. We develop a model of print media and show that entry of national television news could adversely affect the provision of local news. We construct a novel dataset of U.S. newspapers’ economic performance and content choices from 1944 to 1964. Our empirical strategy exploits quasi-random variation in the timing of the entry of television in different markets. We show that the entry of television was a negative shock for newspapers, particularly evening newspapers, in both the readership and advertising markets. Further, we find a drop in the total quantity of news printed, in particular original reporting, raising concerns about the provision of local news.

"Popularity vs Quality: Do Social Media Bias Editorial Decisions?" with Nicolas Hervé (INA) and Béatrice Mazoyer (INA) (Draft coming soon)

"It Takes Money to Make MPs : New Evidence from 150 Years of British Campaign Spending" with Edgard Dewitte (Sciences Po Paris) (Draft coming soon)

What is the price of a vote and how did it evolve over time? In this paper, we study the impact of campaign spending on electoral results in the United Kingdom over the last 150 years, a period that covers the emergence of different campaigning technologies. We build a new exhaustive dataset on campaign spending and votes since 1857, including not only detailed election expenses for 62,248 election-constituency-candidates, but also extensive candidates’ characteristics as well as constituency-level controls. Beyond this important data collection effort, our contribution to the literature is threefold. First, we propose two new instruments based on historical events to estimate the causal impact of spending on votes. Second, we investigate whether the introduction of new campaigning technologies has affected the relationship between spending and votes. Finally, we exploit the multiparty nature of the U.K. electoral data and examine whether the efficiency of campaign spending varies depending on the political parties. We show that there is a positive effect of spending on votes, and that this effect is becoming stronger over time, reflecting an higher efficiency of new campaigning technologies. Furthermore, we document that while historically, campaign expenditures were relatively less efficient for the UK Independence Party, there is a convergence over time. This may reflect a decrease in the stigma associated with the UKIP vote, and help to improve our understanding of the determinants of the rise of right-wing populism.

"Charismatic Leaders and the Future of Nations: Verdun, Pétain, and Political Extremism in France, 1932-2017" with Anna Dagorret (Paris School of Economics), Saumitra Jha (Stanford University), and Pauline Grosjean (UNSW Business School) (Draft coming soon)

Do individual leaders shape historical outcomes? Using electoral results for local elections in France since the eve of WWII, this paper documents how collaboration activities shaped post-war political outcomes. Uniquely in the literature, we were able to access and have digitized a newly declassified dataset on all the 90,000 individuals that had been considered as collaborators during the war. We combine these data with local-level electoral results of all the legislative elections since 1932 and document how war-time political cleavages and violence shaped voting behavior and political identities. We propose a new instrument for the intensity of Collaboration at the local level: the “Noria” (rotation) system used by General Pétain to relieve French troops during the Battle of Verdun in 1916. We find that this exogenous exposure to the “victor of Verdun” is an important driver of Collaboration. The instrumented intensity of Collaboration at the local level is then find to have a positive and persistent causal effect on the vote for the far right.

Work in Progress

“Why Not Me? 100 years of Political Selection and Strategic Allocation in the UK” with Edgard Dewitte (Sciences Po Paris).

“Money and Ideology: Evidence from French Legislative elections” with Caroline Le Pennec-Çaldichoury (Berkeley) and Elisa Mougin (Sciences Po Paris).

“Payroll and Inequality within the Newsroom: Evidence from France, 1936-2016”

“Fraternité and Fraternization: Resisters and Collaborators in Wartime France” with Anna Dagorret (Paris School of Economics), Saumitra Jha (Stanford University), and Pauline Grosjean (UNSW Business School)

“Estimating the Production and Demand for Online News: Micro-Level Evidence from the Universe of French News Media” with Nicolas Hervé (INA) and Marie-Luce Viaud (INA)

“Democratization and Media Supply: Evidence from India” with Guilhem Cassan (University of Namur) and Francesca Jensenius (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)

“Word Embeddings for Topic Detection and Tracking” with Béatrice Mazoyer (INA), Nicolas Hervé (INA), Marc Evrard (INA) and Céline Hudelot (Ecole Centrale Paris).

Publications in Computer Sciences

“Représentations lexicales pour la détection non supervisée d’événements dans un flux de tweets : étude sur des corpus français et anglais” with B. Mazoyer, N. Hervé and C. Hudelot, Extraction et Gestion des Connaissances (EGC 2020).

“Real-Time Collection of Reliable and Representative Tweets Datasets Related to News Events” with B. Mazoyer, C. Hudelot and M.-L. Viaud, Proceedings of the First International Workshop on Analysis of Broad Dynamic Topics over Social Media (BroDyn 2018) co-located with the 40th European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR 2018), 2018, 23–34.

Unpublished articles and “oldies”

"Asymmetric Information, Rent Extraction and Aid Efficiency", 2009.

Official Development Aid flows are volatile, non-predictable and not delivered in a transparent way. All these features reinforce asymmetric information between the citizens and the recipient government about the amount of aid flows received by developing countries. This article uses a political economy model of rent extraction to show how this asymmetry (i) encourages rent extraction by kleptocratic regimes, thus reducing aid efficiency, and (ii) increases the negative impact of aid volatility. It identifies a new channel - the "asymmetric information" channel - through which aid volatility is costly for recipient countries. The empirical relevance of the model is confirmed on a panel data of developing countries. Using various specifications and econometric methods, and developing new yearly estimates of aid volatility, I show that (i) introducing more information increases aid efficiency, that (ii) the negative impact of aid volatility on aid efficiency vanishes once one controls for information, and that (iii) this positive impact of information does not come from the fact that more transparent countries tend to have better institutions.

"Aid Volatility and Macro Risks in Low-Income Countries" with Eduardo Borensztein, Daniel Cohen and Cécile Valadier, OECD Development Centre 273, 2008.

Non-academic Publications

See the dedicated page