I need to cite this, but haven’t seen it appear anywhere else online. (Come on media!!!)
From Jim Poterba, President of the National Bureau of Economic Research, via email:
Dear “New This Week” Subscribers:
Our practice to date has been to send all recipients of the NBER “New This Week” announcement a message with the new working papers listed in ascending numerical order assigned based on when each paper was ready for distribution. A recent study (http://www.nber.org/papers/
w21141) found that papers at or near the top of the list were downloaded more frequently than their lower-listed counterparts.
To avoid inequities across working papers that result from list placement differences, beginning next week, the order of papers in each of the more than 23,000 “New This Week” messages that we send will be determined randomly. This will mean that roughly the same number of message recipients will see a given paper in the first position, in the second position, and so on.