Tom Selling, author of the The Accounting Onion, has just published a new post, “Why Do Accounting Academics Blog Less Than Other Academics?” [October 12, 2011]
There is a very select list of bloggers who I view as must reads. Tom is on that list. He is both an excellent writer and an insightful commentator. He also is a retired professor.
The organizational structure of his post is very interesting. I can’t ever recall Tom sharing details of his speaking engagements, but he does today. He starts his post by disclosing that he will be the keynote speaker to an accounting academic conference (Northeast Section, American Accounting Association) on Friday, October 28, 2011. He has been asked to speak on IFRS issues, a subject he has blogged on dozens of times in recent years. He’s the only blogger who has written more frequently on the subject than I.
In other words, the organizers of an accounting academic conference have decided to give top billing to a blogger. Yet, accounting academics shun the act of blogging for themselves? Why is that?
There is much that is wrong with the financial accounting and auditing industries. The three major problems, as I see them, are (1) the disinclination of corporate managers to report honest numbers, (2) the successful lobbying by monied corporate interests for company-friendly accounting rules (to the detriment of investor interests), and (3) the fundamentally flawed audit model in which a conflict of interest prevents audit firms from safeguarding investor interests.
Industry problems are the fodder for bloggers and other commentators. If everything was hunky-dory I might be reduced to writing about accountant lifestyles, and who wants to read about boring?
So, in a field in which there is much to write about, why don’t more people blog? Especially academics who must write and publish, or perish.
Selling suggests that large audit firms have a dampening effect. His reasoning is that accounting departments of B-schools fear that their graduates won’t get recruited if said accounting departments are critical of the firms. It is not that the firms have a history of shunning certain schools (although who would be surprised if they did?), it is that the schools have a fear of being shunned.
It is my personal experience that such fear actually exists, and it is manifested in hiring decisions (can’t hire a Big 4 critic) and research programs (must research issues that positively support large audit firms). It is whispered that it is also manifested in publication decisions (negative industry-related articles can’t get published). Additional support for these observations come from several past discussions on AECM, the international listserv for accounting professors.
But I wonder if that is the only reason. Why is it that there are so few highly regarded bloggers in the accounting & auditing fields? Truly, there aren’t that many great blogs in the field, even from practitioners. Why is that?
I doubt it is because of a lack of readers. There aren’t a lot, but I think it is a case of if you build it, they will come. Paul Caron, the Tax Prof, receives 6-8 million page reads per year. Of course, he posts information on everything that happens in the tax world. Kelly Erb, the Tax Girl, doesn’t disclose readership, but there is an astounding number of links to her site and her commentaries. I estimate that she receives 1-2 million page reads per year. Francine McKenna, an outspoken critic of the audit industry, is widely read. She is probably approaching nearly one million page reads per year.
I doubt it is because of a lack of reward. Reputational rewards accrue to successful bloggers. This year, accounting industry commentators Paul Miller, Paul Bahnson, Caleb Newquist and I were recognized in the Accounting Today “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting.” For years, Joe Kristan (Roth CPA) has been recognized for his excellent and insightful tax blog).
I suspect the reason stems from two characteristics in a typical accounting personality:
- Numbers over words, and
- Matching cause with effect.
Raise your 10-key punching hand if you got into the accounting field because you would get to write frequently. Successful blogging requires effective writing, and too few professors and accountants have the skill.
We accountants are familiar with the concept of billable time. If you can’t bill for it, don’t do it. And blogging is not a billable activity. It isn’t for professional accountants, and it isn’t for professors.
Other business fields support commentaries and blogs. There are numerous blogs by professors in economics, law, finance, marketing, and social media. Many are excellent! But there aren’t in accounting & auditing, and that’s a shame.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht