The two most popular articles that freelancers have written for Priceonomics are an investigation into whether rotisserie chicken is really a bargain and the story of how a Hollywood sitcom writer became homeless.
In other words, we have pretty eclectic taste. Which is why we’d like you to pitch us an article you’d like to write for Priceonomics.
In the past, Priceonomics staff writers have written close to 100% of our articles. But working with freelancers has allowed us to tell stories we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves, like how the Korean government incited the bibimbap and kimchi craze in America, and how the $200 billion infomercial industry is twice the size of the entire TV business.
Here are the last five freelance articles we published (as of August 2016):
Our next freelance articles are about how investment banks profit from the construction of American public schools and how the dot-com collapse led to the racial integration of a San Francisco public school.
If you’d like to pitch an article, you have two options. You can scroll below to learn how to pitch your idea. Or you can pitch us on taking on one of the story or topic ideas we’ve listed below. We know that it can be time-consuming to pitch articles, so we want to make your life easier by suggesting ideas we are already curious about.
We will update this list of story ideas regularly. If you’d like us to email you when we release a new batch of topics, please enter your email here.
Option 1: Write one of these stories
Here are several topics we’re curious about. If you’re interested in covering them, the instructions for contacting us are below.
The Cult of the Volkswagen Westfalia
These camper vans, made by Volkswagen in the 1980s, have a cult following. They are 30 years old and costly to maintain, but people seem to love them. What’s the deal with the Volkswagen Westfalia?
Fires in San Francisco Apartment Buildings
Is there any data showing that apartment buildings in San Francisco tend to catch fire more often when rents are higher?
We suspect that when landlords want to get rid of rent-controlled tenants, they stop maintaining their buildings properly, which can lead to fire hazards.
This is a morbid thought, and just a hypothesis. What does the data say—if it’s possible to assemble?
The Donald Trump Cost-Control Strategy
Donald Trump has famously stiffed contractors who worked on his Atlantic casinos. The New Yorker and the Wall Street Journal, among others, have reported that this practice is common in the real estate industry: a routine “cost-saving measure.”
Why is this practice common in the real estate sector? Why and how does it work? And is it common in other industries?
The Gigantic Romance Novel Industry
According to Nielsen, romance novels make up 29% of all fiction books sold in the United States. We’re not sure what the story is here, but this is an interesting data point. What story could you tell about this?
Why do Men Commit More Crimes?
Each time a mass shooting takes place, a minority of commentators point out that the shooters are invariably male. And, in general, men commit the majority of violent crimes.
Why do men commit more crimes, and is this true of both violent and non-violent crime? Which crimes are committed at equal rates across genders, and does the size of the gender gap in crime vary in different areas or countries?
The Enduring Popularity of Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty is crazy popular, and has been for decades. How does the Hello Kitty licensing work? What is the history of this brand? And why is it so enduringly popular and visually appealing?
What’s the Deal with Polygraphs? (update: unavailable)
In the world of Harry Potter, it’s very easy to wrap up criminal mysteries. Once a suspect is in hand and forced to take a truth-telling potion, he or she confesses everything.
Our world has a technological version of a truth-telling potion: a polygraph. So why don’t we use them all the time? And if they are unreliable, why do we use them at all?
Spam in the Age of Telegraphs
This is a complaint about spam sent by a dentist over telegraph in 1864.
Was this a major problem or annoyance back then? How did individuals and the government try to deal with spam in the 19th century?
Option 2: Pitch us an original idea
Do you have an idea for a story? Great! We’d love to hear it.
Despite our name, we don’t exclusively focus on prices or economics. (It’s a long story.) We publish stories on any topic we find interesting or important as long as they are reported objectively and intelligently.
Our articles tend to run from 1,500 to 3,000 words. We don’t publish think pieces or hot takes, and we don’t aim to report the news or follow the news cycle. Our approach is closer to magazine journalism, and one of our strengths is finding stories in unexpected places.
You can get a sense for our style and the type of topics that succeed on Priceonomics by looking at this list of our most popular articles (as measured imperfectly by number of Facebook likes and shares). You can also see examples of common types of Priceonomics articles here.
You’ll see that we like stories about data. (Although we don’t force data analysis into stories.) And if you read some of our articles, you’ll see that our writing gets pretty nerdy. Not nerdy in the sense of writing about SETI and Dungeons & Dragons—although those sound like interesting topics. But nerdy in the sense of getting into the weeds of the history/economics/psychology of a topic.
Go ahead. Nerd out in your stories. Priceonomics is a safe place.
How to apply
To apply, we need you to do four things. It shouldn’t take long—we are looking for people with a demonstrated background in publishing this kind of work. You could have published something on Medium or the New York Times. As long as it is good, it doesn’t matter.
If you’d like to pitch us or cover one of the above topics, please apply with the following:
1. A single pitch—either one of yours or one of our suggested stories. You don’t need to have conducted interviews or written an outline. What we’d like to see is 1-3 short paragraphs that show you have thought about the topic, have a hunch for what may be interesting about it, and have an initial gameplan for how to investigate.
2. A little blurb about you. Who are you? Feel free to add a link to your LinkedIn or website.
3. The link to the most popular thing you’ve ever published online.
Using Facebook’s API, we’ll check how many times it was shared and liked. (It’s an imperfect measure of popularity, but the best that’s publicly available.) We’ll also check Twitter to see if people have shared it and what they said about it. We don’t care about popularity persay, but we want to see a demonstrated ability to write something that will make an impact on the Internet.
To find out how many times your articles have been liked and shared—and to find your most popular one—you can do the same thing using this tool. Having over 1,000 likes/shares on an article is pretty popular—although it depends somewhat on where the article was published.
4. The link to the best thing you’ve ever published online.
Here’s the application link.