Calling All Blog Readers (Actually, Only the Smart, Creative, and Hardworking Ones)

My sister Linda is the one who came up with the title Freakonomics for our first book. Probably because of that, ever since she has been obsessed with trying to, in marketing lingo, “extend the Freakonomics brand.”

Her first idea was the Freakonomics t-shirt. “Everybody will want one of these,” she said. Somehow, even though millions of people were willing to buy the book, we only managed to sell one t-shirt a week even though we advertised it all the time on the blog.

She aimed higher with her next endeavor: a Freakonomics-inspired reality TV show. Amazingly, it was actually optioned by a leading Hollywood studio, and we even went so far as to fly to Hollywood and pitch this to a dozen networks, all of which said no.

The list of other Freakonomics products that never came to be goes on and on: a Freakonomics board game, a Freakonomics hip-hop album (if Cornel West can do it, why not Dubner and Levitt?), Freakopedia, etc.

Her latest idea, though, may finally work. She has come up with a neat idea for an iPhone app: a Freakonomics trivia game. This is not going to be your standard “What is the highest mountain in South America?” kind of trivia game, but rather, one that has a Freakonomics flavor.

Here is an example of one of the questions:

Michael Jackson died suddenly on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50. How many other people died on that same day, internationally?

  1. 15,000
  2. 80,000
  3. 150,000
  4. 300,000

It turns out to be hard to find people who can write the kinds of questions we want to ask in the game, and we don’t have time to write them all ourselves. Where better to look for help, we figured, than to loyal blog readers.

So, if you are smart, imaginative, have some spare time, need a few bucks, and want to be part of the team that creates the content for a Freakonomics iPhone app, email my sister here. She’ll give you all the details.

And here’s the real incentive: if the app doesn’t get off the ground, prepare yourself for a slew of blog entries promoting her latest brainstorm, the Adam Smith Can Cozy:



Are there any royalties or credit involved or are you going to pull a Chris Anderson?

Mike B

How about a chain of Freakonomics branded "family planning services" clinics XD

Seriously tho. Freakonomics is a way of thinking about things. I think the best use of the brand is to promote yourselves as authors. Look at the Moneyball guy Michael Lewis. Most informed baseball people know what it means to "play moneyball." The story contained within the book has been so transformative and eye opening that Michael Lewis can clean up with any new book he writes as well as the lecture circuit.

I think putting the name willy nilly on tangentially related items only cheapens it.

If you insist on using the brand keep it on things with a strong economics bend that appeal to the same crowd that bought the book. Think about T-shirts with slogans like "Game Theory Compels me to [Punch line[" or one-a-day calenders with interesting Freaconomic Facts.


"I'm in ur indiferenz curvs, maximyzin ur utiliteze."


If no else is wearing them, maybe I'll buy a freakonomics t-shirt.


I will buy a freakonomics t-shirt as long as it is $5 or less (includng shipping)


A series of 'freakonomics' trademarked lectures on cd/podcast. Maybe even a quick weekly segment on Marketplace, or some popular morning show.
You could cover basics, and current events and generally misunderstood economic ideas.
Raise the general economic literacy of all americans.


There are a whole slew of job interview questions available online along the same lines ('how many piano tuners are there in the US' etc.)


I would take an Adam Smith can cozy. It is, for lack of better terminology, win.


I just don't see how the Michael Jackson question is differente to the "standard 'What is the highest mountain in South America?' kind of trivia game" Am I missing something?

A true freakonomics app should asks questions about future events, charge for participation, and provide rewards to winners. Wait, I just came up with the idea for an iphone app for prediction markets.

Em Hall

I would so totally buy that cozy.


There are currently 6 billion people. If the average lifespan is roughly 70, then each person dies one day in 70*365 = 25,550. 6 billion divided by 30,000 is roughly 200,000. This would be the death rate if our population were more or less uniformly distributed, and it's, pretty close to both 300,000 and 150,000. But we have a growing population, so it seems likely that the population skews young, and the death rate skews low. I'm going with 150,000 people.


Maybe skip the iPhone and go for Facebook. Remember Scrabulous?

From Wikipedia:

"Rumors suggest that in January 2008, Hasbro made an attempt to acquire Scrabulous for an undisclosed sum in the $10 million range. The game had been generating advertising revenue of over $25,000 per month for the Agarwalla brothers. The Agarwallas refused to sell their application to Hasbro, instead requesting a "multiple" of $10 million. It was reported that the Agarwallas had also been looking for other potential suitors who would be willing to pay higher premiums."

That's some good dough!


I can haz cozy plz?


Why should *I* pay to market *your* brand? This why I don't buy shirts with corporate logos on them (though I will take them at trade shows, if I don't have to waste too much time to get one).


Er.. I think some of us are getting confused, that "How many piano tuners are there in the US?" question is what's know as a Fermi problem. I assume your trying to avoid that kind of thing, right?

If not then I want to know, given an average person's set of criteria for what they imagine to be an ideal mate, how many people out there are actually date-able? ;-)


Sorry Steven, but this idea is even more ridiculous than the t-shirt one. Want to bet on it? :) Why to go for a hugely crowded market with a product that would be apprecieted only by the people who actully don't have time to use it? Why don't you try to be a little bit creative? :)


Freakonomics iPhone app? Meh. Why limit yourself to the iPhone universe? I'm guessing iPhone owners don't match up with your normal demographics, anyway. I see a lot of iPhones and iTouches in the hands of teeny-boppers.

Now, Holls @6 has a great idea with the podcast or even a short radio spot that you could syndicate out to radio stations. "The Freakonomics Minute" or something like that. Or, "Ask the Freakonomist". Given the low level of economic understanding in the country and the desire by many to start shooting economists right now, I don't think you want to be on TV with anything. People might recognize you on street.

Freakonomics was cool because it was counter-intuitive and came out of left field. Throwing an iPhone app out there is anything but. It's de rigeur any more. You can do better.

But I would like a T-shirt.

Imad Qureshi


I exactly said the same thing but may be in a more offensive tone and the reviewer decided not to publish it. This idea is flawed.


Possible Questions for iPhone app:

Which of the following names is among the fifty most popular for dogs and males born in the United States?

How many manhole covers are there in San Francisco?

What hour are children most likely to be the victims of gun crime?

d) 300k sound right giving a world wide mortality rate of ~100 million/yr ~1.5-2% of the total population.