The economics of kissing-and-telling

By Felix Salmon
December 7, 2009

What's the marginal cost to Tiger of the publication of explicit details about an affair, over and above the cost of the revelation of that affair in the first place?

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Now that it’s obvious that Tiger Woods has had affairs, why would he pay millions of dollars to buy silence from the “Tiger lilies”?

What’s the marginal cost to Tiger of the publication of explicit details about an affair, over and above the cost of the revelation of that affair in the first place?

How did Tiger (and, presumably, his lawyers) arrive at the amount of money by which he would increase his wife’s prenup in the wake of the revelations?

What mechanism is responsible for the fact that as soon as one lily emerges, the rest all tumble out into the open? What credible signal can a bar girl send to a celebrity of Tiger’s magnitude that she won’t sell her salacious story for millions or effectively blackmail him? And is there some kind of unspoken pact between Las Vegas bar girls and their clientele that no one should ever be the first to be outed, but that there’s no shame in being the third or fifth? Or is it just that it becomes easier to sell your story in the midst of a feeding frenzy like the one we’re seeing right now?

Then there’s the tabloids: wouldn’t they pay more for the first kiss-and-tell story than for the fourth? Do they, too, get caught up in the frenzy? Or does the frenzy itself increase the value of these stories?

Enquiring minds want to know!

(Picture: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)


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I would think the value of their silence is less that the details don’t come out than that the story drops from the headlines more quickly.

I’m under time pressure with some deadlines, in case you were wondering why I’ve put so many comments on your blog today.

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive

Ignore the immediate financial outlays to buy silence and look to the impact on future earnings. He probably has a pretty good fix on his year by year future earnings potential via sponsorship and he may have a feel on how losing control of the information dissemination about himself can impact those earnings. That puts a pretty high price on buying silence (if that is possible). As you say it could keep rising, but the right contract could protect him from that.

However, he could flip it all around and take the “flood the market” approach. Sell his own story, warts and all, to the highest bidder – maybe with a book deal too. The lilies’ stories then pick up cents on the dollar, and if they deviate from his ‘true’ version then he can sue.

Then give all the revenue to his charity and make it quite clear he is not profiting – in fact he is actively trying to make amends – and benefiting good causes. This has the potential added benefit of controlling the bad information, while gaining some kudos (turning his bad to good causes). He might even pick up some advertisers along the way – Viagra?

Posted by nicfulton | Report as abusive

Was interesting to note that I saw no ‘Tiger’ commercials during the ‘Tiger Woods’ tournament over the weekend. The fallout may have already begun.

Posted by Viaphacops | Report as abusive


She a hoe, he an fool, now they both gotta live with the shame.
she married him for his money (hoe) he screwed around for fun (fool), now they must both pay the piper.
Shure, they can both laugh all the weay to the bank, and even buy some friends who dont care, but at 2:00am when the crown has left they are stuck with the plain truth.

I’m not a bible thumper, however, a good passage comes to mind.
” what has a rich man (or woman) gained if they trade their soul for allk the gold of solomon’s mines”.

The truth will set you free, so will a six pack of beer on a tuff night.

Happy trails my friends.

Posted by clearthinker | Report as abusive

If the rumors are to be true, Tiger has a sex drive that only equals his golfer’s. Also true is the fact that when it comes to marital infidelity this famous tiger has a quite a tale to tell. I’m not pretending to be a judge of his personal life, but it’s obvious that he has screwed his reputation, at least as a public figure as well as a role model and that is going to cost him millions…

Posted by marusik | Report as abusive

I like the “warts and all” comment from nicfulton, he’ll be lucky if it is just HPV he has to deal with.

Posted by onchor | Report as abusive

BANZAI7 NEWS–Copenhagen’s (aka-Groppenhagen) city council in conjunction with Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards out to 160 Copenhagen hotels urging “COPULATION15″ (COP15) CLIMAX Change conference guests and delegates to ‘Be sustainable – don’t buy sex’.

“Dear hotel owner, we would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between hotel guests and prostitutes,” the approach to hotels says.

Groppenhagen prostitutes up in arms, said that the council has no business meddling in their affairs. They have now offered free sex to anyone who can produce one of the offending postcards and their (COP)ULATION15 identity card.

In response to the special offer, Tiger Woods has announced his appointment to act as Special Ombudsman for COP15.

In response to Tiger’s appointment, Tiger’s wife has sent the following post card message to all hotels in Groppenhagen:

“Dear hotel owner, I would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between Tiger Woods, night club hostesses and prostitutes.”

Viagra has also announced a special “Be Sustainable” ad campaign for COPULATION15. As previously reported, Country delegates will be awarded special bonus points (“PoPs”) for submitting additional greenhouse gas reduction targets (“FaRTS”). “The Viagra campaign is intended to enable delegates to get more PoPs for their FaRTs.”

Posted by williambanazi7 | Report as abusive

@clearthinker: You don’t know what happened. You might be right, but you don’t know. One thing I do know, though, is that a ‘hoe’ is a gardening tool. You’re a ‘ho’ and if there were more of you then you’d be ‘hoes.’

Posted by golden_ursine | Report as abusive