Internet Association Adds Chief Economist to Quantify Industry Impact

Following its members’ lead, the Internet Association opted to bring on a chief economist. The new executive will focus on analyzing and promoting the industry’s growing role in the economy.

Online-based companies want the world to know how much they contribute to the gross domestic product, and to do so, the Internet Association has hired a chief economist.

“The organization is growing in scale and scope, and there’s been a desire within the industry and among the members of the association to sort of tell a better story of the role of the internet in the economy,” said Christopher Hooton, IA’s newly named chief economist. “People are starting to realize how significant it is.”

Internet-based companies made up about 6 percent of the GDP in 2014, according to an IA study. That information must be shared with policymakers, stakeholders, and key players in the marketplace, Hooton said.

His role at IA consists mainly of providing the research and analysis to back up what the online industry already knows: It’s a major player in the U.S. economy. According to the organization’s data, internet-based businesses generated $966.2 billion in 2014.

And that’s about double what the sector did in 2007.

“With the internet, it’s such a dynamic sector,” Hooton said. “Internet companies have grown so quickly and changed the game so quickly. [IA] realized the value” of creating a chief economist position.

IA’s membership consists of some of the biggest players in the field, household names like Amazon, Etsy, and Facebook. Hooton will provide the data to bolster the trade group’s advocacy efforts. Those goals, this year, consist of promoting the sharing economy—think Uber or Airbnb—as well as lobbying on privacy and copyright issues.

Two weeks on the job, Hooton—a former lecturer at the U.K.-based University of Cambridge and a staffer at the World Bank—describes his role as a hybrid position. He will collaborate with his IA colleagues while partnering with members and experts in academia to churn out market analysis and data. It follows what Silicon Valley firms have been doing for years: hiring economists as well as developers and software engineers.

“What a lot of us are realizing more and more is that the ecosystem is much, much more complicated than what we had thought,” Eric Brill told The Mercury News in 2010, when he was eBay’s vice president of research and the tech industry was scooping up economists left and right.

Officials with IA declined to give specifics in terms of creating and shaping the role, but it’s been in the works several years.

“The internet is a data-driven industry, and we look forward to bringing this mindset to the policy arena with good data-driven policy arguments,” said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of IA, in a statement. “Whether exploring the economic opportunity created by future-proof legislation, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or examining the potential of the sharing economy, [Hooton] will bring immense value and creative insight to our advocacy moving forward.”


Derrick Perkins

By Derrick Perkins

Derrick Perkins is an associate editor at Associations Now. In his career as a reporter, editor, and photographer, he has covered communities in New England and Virginia as well as the Defense Department. MORE

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