Richard Littlecock's move from the Sun to the Mail is likely to cement his position as Britain's best-paid newspaper columnist; he's reputed to have been on £350,000 a year at the Sun - 11 times what the average journalist is paid.
This is an example of superstar economics, pointed out by Sherwin Rosen in the early 80s - the process whereby tiny superiorities in ability lead to huge differences in salary.
The ability that matters here is not the skill to produce well-written right-wing bile. Loads of people can do that.
Instead, the difference between Littlecock and those guys - at least in the opinion of the Mail which is what counts - is that he can deliver readers. And it only takes a small ability to do this to warrant a big income. If Littlecock's two columns a week attract - say - 40,000 extra readers (an increase of only 1.7 per cent) then if these generate an extra 10p each of net income for the Mail, he'll be worth a wage of £8000 a week.
So, what is it about Littlecock-type ability that generates such rewards?
The key feature is that his services are easily duplicable. Once he's written an article, it can be distributed relatively cheaply to millions of people; Littlecock can, in effect, duplicate himself and serve millions of clients. This is why you get "superstar economics" in entertainment or sports but not medicine; the best doctor in the world can (for now) only perform a limited number of operations. That limits his income.
A second feature, said Rosen, was that average ability was a poor substitute for high ability. This explains superstar salaries in sport; an average striker is a poor substitute for Thierry Henry, because Thierry's superior ability leads to much greater on-field success.
I'm not sure, though, that this explains income differences in media or music. No-one thinks the callipygous J-Lo (why does writing about Littlecock make me think of arses?) is a better singer than, say, Kate Campbell. What J-Lo has is greater brand recognition - just as Littlecock has greater brand recognition than, say, Peter Briffa. It's this - not writing or singing talent per se - that generates income.
Now, here are my questions. One is: how do people convert ability into brand recognition? Secondly, is technical change really increasing the importance of superstar economics? Or will the rise of blogging eventually reduce the earnings of people like Littlecock, by allowing his potential competitors to develop brand recognition which they can sell to the old meeja. Here's hoping...