Advertising Spending and Media Bias: Evidence from News Coverage of Car Safety Recalls | Beattie, Durante, Knight, Sen

Graham Beattie, Ruben Durante, Brian Knight, Ananya Sen; Advertising Spending and Media Bias: Evidence from News Coverage of Car Safety Recalls; Some Working Paper; 2017-02; 43 pages; paywall.

tl;dr → [Question:] Do media outlets bias news content in favor of advertisers?
Answer: Yes. Though, technically, Betteridge’s Law does not apply because the question is in the abstract, not the title.


Do media outlets bias news content in favor of advertisers? We study this question by examining the relationship between advertising spending by car manufacturers in U.S. newspapers and news coverage of major safety recalls issued between 2000 and 2014. Examining car safety recalls allows us to separate the effect of advertisers’ influence from that of readers’ tastes which, in this case, should lead to more coverage as owners of recalled vehicles demand more information about the safety risks associated with the recall. Consistent with the predictions of our theoretical model, we find that recalls involving a given manufacturer receive significantly less coverage on newspapers in which that manufacturer advertised more over the previous two years. We find that pro-advertiser bias is more pronounced in markets with a single newspaper, which indicates that competition – and the related reputational concerns – mitigates capture by advertisers. Finally, increased competition for advertising revenues from online platforms makes newspapers more vulnerable to the pressure of advertisers.

Is ‘Smart’ Beta Just Expensive Beta? | Betterment

Staff (Betterment); Is ‘Smart’ Beta Just Expensive Beta?; In Their Blog; 2015-06-15.
Teaser Are ‘smart’ beta funds good for investors? So far, the answer is no.

tl;dr → Betteridge’s Law. No.

From Two Sides Now

Is ‘Smart’ Beta Just Expensive Beta?
Are ‘smart’ beta funds good for investors?

Time Symmetry Theory, or Retrocausality, Predicts That the Future Is Influencing the Past | Big Think

A New Quantum Theory Predicts That the Future Could Be Influencing the Past; Paul Ratner; In Big Think; 2017-07-09.

Original Sources

Matthew Leifer (Chapman University), Matt Pusey (Perimeter); Does time-symmetry in quantum theory imply retrocausality?; Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi); 2016-07-17; 28 slides.
<paywalled>Matthew S. Leifer, Matthew F. Pusey; Is a time symmetric interpretation of quantum theory possible without retrocausality?; In Proceedings of the Royal Society A; 2017-06-21; DOI:10.1098/rspa.2016.0607</paywalled>

tl;dr → Betteridge’s Law. No.


  • retrocausality
  • time symmetry
  • Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario.


<quote>retrocausality does not mean that you get to send signals from the future to the past – rather that an experimenter’s measurement of a particle can influence the properties of that particle in the past, even before making their choice.</quote>


  • Matthew S. Leifer
  • Huw Price, professor, philosophy, University of Cambridge,
    …quoted for color, background & verisimilitude.


  • Einstein
  • Bell



In Big Think

Can We Foresee the Future? Explaining and Predicting Cultural Change | SPSP

Igor Grossmann, Michael E. W. Varnum in their roles as; editor of the blog of Society for Personality and Social Psychology) Can We Foresee the Future? Explaining and Predicting Cultural Change; In That Certain Blog; 2017-10-17.

tl;dr → Yes.  Betteridge’s Law fails.
ahem → No. Betteridge’s Law holds. Surely no one can know the future, and anyone who says they can is either high or a fool, perhaps both.  One can problematize quibble on the epistemology sense of the word “to know,” if you think you have time for that sort of thing.


Michael E. W. Varnum, Igor Grossmann. (2017). Cultural change: The how and the why. In Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617699971


The promotional build running up to the release of that certain sequel (2017) to the movie Blade Runner (1982) which is in turn based on a short novel by Philip K. Dick entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Doubleday 1968) [Answer: No (whereas Androids, after the Ice Cream Sandwich release, are functionally people too, being as they feel pain and love, as eloquently and forcefully testified by Rutger Hauer in a monologue performed so memorably on that dark & rainy night), again, Betteridge's Law holds, c.f. Jimi Wales' Wiki, Jimi Wales' Wiki].


A means & method for producing new predictions, which is better.

  • Uniqueness.
  • Rigorous
    • Theory-Driven [not Theory-Laden].
    • Testable [falsifiable]
  • Empirical.
    • Documentation
      Whereas sociology is either slow journalism [documentation] or activism [promotion] in service to personal ideals.
    • Repeatable
      Replicatability is not claimed.  It’s a best practice for high fidelity journalism.

<quote>What is unique is a rigorous theory-driven attempt to not only document but to test explanations for patterns of societal change empirically </quote>

The enumerated [cultural] changes are features of the ecology [our ecologies].
<quote>This emerging work suggests <snide>asserts</snide> that among the most powerful contributors to cultural changes in areas like individualism, gender equality, and happiness are shifts in essential features of our ecologies.</quote>
This schema was shown in animal behavior; now it is replicated with people [our people].
<quote>The idea that variations in ecological dimensions and cues like scarcity or population density might be linked to behavioral adaptations has been widely explored in animal kingdom, and recently started to gain prominence as a way to explain variations in human behavior.</quote>

  • Ellis, Bianchi, Griskevicius, & Frankenhuis, 2017.
  • Sng, Neuberg, Varnum, & Kenrick, 2017.


  • It’s an “implications” paper:
    <quote>but also has fundamental implications for psychometric assumptions and replicability in psychological science.</quote>
  • <quote>Neither experts nor lay people do much better than chance
    as “proven” in: Tetlock, 2006; Tetlock & Gardner, 2016.</quote>
  • <quote>psychological phenomena unfold within a temporal context,</quote> → <fancier>events occur over spans of time; therefor psychological events occur over spans of time<fancier>,
    the insight is attributed to Kurt Lewin and Lev Vygotsky; unnamed “other theorists.”
  • ngrams, as mentioned in Google Books.
  • cross-lagged statistical models
  • cross-correlation functions
  • tests of Granger causality
  • SES (Socio-Economic Status; i.e. Marx-archetype class.
  • The Misery Index, of [NAME] Okun.
  • ecological framework
  • big data
  • econometric tools
  • insights from machine learning
  • predictive science of cultural change.
  • emerging science of cultural change
  • predictive psychological science (Yarkoni & Westfall, 2017)


  • Ellis, B. J., Bianchi, J., Griskevicius, V., & Frankenhuis, W. E. (2017). Beyond risk and protective factors: An adaptation-based approach to resilience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(4), 561–587. DOI:10.1177/1745691617693054
  • Flynn, J. R. (1987). Massive IQ gains in 14 nations: What IQ tests really measure. Psychological Bulletin, 101(2), 171 – 191. DOI:10.1037/0033-2909.101.2.171.
  • Greenfield, P. M. (2017). Cultural change over time: Why replicability should not be the gold standard in psychological science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(5), 762-771. DOI:10.1177/1745691617707314
  • Grossmann, I. & Varnum, M. E. W. (2015). Social structure, infectious diseases, disasters, secularism, and cultural change in America. Psychological Science, 26(3) 311-324. DOI:10.1177/0956797614563765
  • Henrich, J., Heine, S.J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 62–135. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0999152X
  • Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (revised and expanded). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill I
  • liev, R., Hoover, J., Dehghani, M., & Axelrod, R. (2016). Linguistic positivity in historical texts reflects dynamic environmental and psychological factors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A, 113(49), 7871-7879. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1612058113
  • Oishi, S., Kesebir, S., & Diener, E. (2011). Income inequality and happiness. Psychological science, 22(9), 1095-1100. DOI:10.1177/0956797611417262
  • Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6(1), 65-78.
  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. In Culture and politics (pp. 223-234). Palgrave Macmillan US.
  • Santos, H. C., Varnum, M. E. W., Grossmann, I. (2017). Global increases in individualism. Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/0956797617700622
  • Sng, O., Neuberg, S. L., Varnum, M. E., & Kenrick, D. T. (2017). The crowded life is a slow life: Population density and life history strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(5), 736 754. DOI:10.1037/pspi0000086
  • Tetlock, P. E. (2006). Expert Political Judgment. How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Tetlock, P. E., & Gardner, D. Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction. Broadway Books.
  • Trahan, L. H., Stuebing, K. K., Fletcher, J. M., & Hiscock, M. (2014). The Flynn effect: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(5), 1332 – 1360. DOI:10.1037/a0037173
  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2001). Age and birth cohort differences in self-esteem: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 321-344. DOI:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_3
  • Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Keith Campbell, W., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality, 76(4), 875-902. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00507.x
  • Varnum, M. E. W. & Grossmann, I. (2017). Cultural change: The how and the why. Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617699971
  • Varnum, M. E. W. & Grossmann, I. (2016). Pathogen prevalence is associated with cultural changes in gender equality. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(0006). doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0003
  • Yarkoni, T., & Westfall, J. A. (2017). Choosing prediction over explanation in psychology: lessons from machine learning. Perspectives on Psychological Science. DOI:10.1177/1745691617693393

Separately noted.

Is the First Amendment Obsolete? | Tim Wu

Tim Wu; Is the First Amendment Obsolete?; In Emerging Threats Series; Knight First Amendment Institute, Columbia University; 2017-09; pdf (27 pages).

tl;dr → No. Betteridge’s Law. It is a Modest Proposal.
and → Whereas free speech is dangerous, re-evaluation of the “unfettered” concept is indicated. Options toward remediation are evaluated.


Is the First Amendment Obsolete?
  1. Core Assumptions of the Political First Amendment
  2. Attentional Scarcity and the Economics of Filter Bubbles
  3. Obsolete Assumptions
    • The Waning of Direct Censorship
    • Troll Armies
    • Reverse Censorship, Flooding, and Propaganda Robots
  4. What Might Be Done
    • Accepting a Limited First Amendment
    • First Amendment Possibilities
    • State Action — Accomplice Liability
    • State Action — Platforms
    • Statutory or Law Enforcement Protection of Speech Environments and the Press
  5. Conclusion


<quote>It is obvious that changes in communications technologies will present new challenges for the First Amendment. For nearly twenty years now, scholars have been debating how the rise of the popular Internet might unsettle what the First Amendment takes for granted. Yet the future retains its capacity to surprise, for the emerging threats to our political speech environment are different from what many predicted. Few forecast that speech itself would become a weapon of censorship. In fact, some might say that celebrants of open and unfettered channels of Internet expression (myself included) are being hoisted on their own petard, as those very same channels are today used as ammunition against disfavored speakers. As such, the emerging methods of speech control present a particularly difficult set of challenges for those who share the commitment to free speech articulated so powerfully in the founding—and increasingly obsolete—generation of First Amendment jurisprudence.</quote>


There are 134 references. In the typset version (pdf), the references are sprinkled throughout in the legal style.  The web version places them at the end <ahem>where they don’t get in the way of the argument, and where they belong</ahem>.

Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills? | Bessembinder

Hendrik Bessembinder (Arizona); Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills? ssrn:2900447; 2017-01-19 → 2017-08-23; 51 pages.

tl;dr → No. Betteridge’s Law.


Fifty eight percent of CRSP common stocks have lifetime holding period returns less than those on one-month Treasuries. The modal lifetime return is -100%. When stated in terms of lifetime dollar wealth creation, the entire net gain in the U.S. stock market since 1926 is attributable to the best-performing four percent of listed stocks, as the other ninety six percent collectively matched one-month Treasury bills. These results highlight the important role of positive skewness in the cross-sectional distribution of stock returns. The skewness arises both because monthly returns are positively skewed and because compounding returns induces skewness. The results help to explain why active strategies, which tend to be poorly diversified, most often underperform.


Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? | Bloom, Jones, Reenen, Webb

Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, Michael Webb

; Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?; Working Paper No. 23782; programs: EFG, PR; National Bureau of Paywalled Working Papers (NBER); 2017-09; 54 pages; paywall.

tl;dr → Yes. Betteridge’s Law. It is the “End of History.” And the “Last Man.” We are “All Out of Ideas.”
and → exponentiation has ceased; growth is stopping; the productivity is ceasing.


In many growth models, economic growth arises from people creating ideas, and the long-run growth rate is the product of two terms: the effective number of researchers and their research productivity. We present a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. A good example is Moore’s Law. The number of researchers required today to achieve the famous doubling every two years of the density of computer chips is more than 18 times larger than the number required in the early 1970s. Across a broad range of case studies at various levels of (dis)aggregation, we find that ideas — and in particular the exponential growth they imply — are getting harder and harder to find. Exponential growth results from the large increases in research effort that offset its declining productivity.

Is There a Cryptocurrency Bubble? Just Ask Doge | NYT

Is There a Cryptocurrency Bubble? Just Ask Doge; Kevin Roose; In The New York Times (NYT); 2017-09-15.

tl;dr → Yes. Betteridge’s Law.
and → There be many fools.  A fool and his money are soon parted.


  • Jackson Palmer
    • age 30
    • Australian
    • purveyor of Dogecoin
  • Ben Doernberg, a ex-board member, Dogecoin Foundation.
  • Doge, the meme
  • Bitcoin
  • Ethereum
  • Dogecon
  • Initial Coin Offering (ICO)
  • Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • LydianCoin, Gravity4
  • Charles Hoskinson, staff, Ethereum


<quote>(If you’re having trouble picturing it: Imagine that a friend is building a casino and asks you to invest. In exchange, you get chips that can be used at the casino’s tables once it’s finished. Now imagine that the value of the chips isn’t fixed, and will instead fluctuate depending on the popularity of the casino, the number of other gamblers and the regulatory environment for casinos. Oh, and instead of a friend, imagine it’s a stranger on the internet who might be using a fake name, who might not actually know how to build a casino, and whom you probably can’t sue for fraud if he steals your money and uses it to buy a Porsche instead. That’s an I.C.O.)</quote>

Does disabling Wi-Fi prevent my Android phone from sending Wi-Fi frames? | INRIA

Célestin Matte, Mathieu Cunche, Vincent Toubiana; Does disabling Wi-Fi prevent my Android phone from sending Wi-Fi frames?; Technical Report, RR-9089, hal-01575519; INRIA; 2017-08-21; 15 pages.

tl;dr → No. Betteridge’s Law.


No. We show that another option, called “Always allow scanning”, when activated, makes a device send Wi-Fi frames which can be used to track this device, even if the Wi-Fi switch is off. This option is not clearly described in all Android versions, and sometimes even not deactivatable. Besides, the Google Maps application prompts the user to activate this option.

Out of Action: Do protests work? | The New Yorker

Out of Action: Do protests work?; Nathan Heller; In The New Yorker; 2017-08-14.
Teaser: Skeptics suggest that “folk politics”—marches, protests, and the like—are a distraction from the challenges of real change.

tl;dr → No.  Betteridge’s Law. folk politics as “leaderless” slactivism does not; “leader”-based, top-down circa 1955-1965 did work; see Zeynep Tufekci.

<quote>Tufekci’s conclusions about the civil-rights movement are unsettling because of what they imply. People such as Kauffman portray direct democracy as a scrappy, passionate enterprise: the underrepresented, the oppressed, and the dissatisfied get together and, strengthened by numbers, force change. Tufekci suggests that the movements that succeed are actually proto-institutional: highly organized; strategically flexible, due to sinewy management structures; and chummy with the sorts of people we now call élites.</quote>


  • “folk politics”
  • “the multitude”
  • “leaderless”
  • “horizontal”



In The New Yorker


Separately noted.