Presentation on theme: "Information and Pricing. Supply and Demand in Two Minutes Producers have a limited set of items to sell –Each item has a marginal cost This is the cost."— Presentation transcript:
Information and Pricing
Supply and Demand in Two Minutes Producers have a limited set of items to sell –Each item has a marginal cost This is the cost of manufacturing, plus salary, R&D, etc. Consumers have a demand for items –Amount theyre willing to pay Prices serve to moderate demand –High prices reduce demand; low prices increase demand Prices also control production –If price is less than marginal cost, firms enter
Supply and Demand in Two Minutes This all leads to the efficient market hypothesis Once supply and demand have equalized –Profits are maximized –Social welfare is maximized In some sense, this produces an optimal solution. There may be other criteria not met –Fairness, moral issues, universal access This theorem is the primary argument for laissez- faire capitalism –Let the markets work, things will equilibrate on their own –The role of the government is to correct market failures
But … The invisible hand requires a number of assumptions –Low barriers to entry –Informed consumers –Scarcity –Excludability –Etc … What happens when these assumptions are violated?
Information goods One unique feature of (digital) electronic commerce is the ability to buy and sell information goods. No physical good purchased; only bits are transferred. Changes many of the rules of the game. Avoids direct competition with brick-and- mortar vendors
Examples of Information Goods News articles Mp3s, movies Stock quotes Software Journal articles Weather reports More …
Features of Information Goods Information goods have a relatively high fixed cost –This is the cost to make the first copy of a good. $300 million for Lord of the Rings –Can be amortized over the number of goods sold. Can discourage new entrants
Features of Information Goods Information goods have little or zero marginal cost. –This is the cost of making additional copies. Low marginal cost implies lots of consumers wanted. –Absorb high fixed costs. This is called increasing returns to scale –As you sell more items, your profit per item increases. Advantages to being a large producer.
Low Marginal Cost Classical theory predicts that items in a competitive market will be sold at marginal cost. –Competitors will undercut until margin is reached. If marginal cost is zero, information goods will be sold for no cost! –No incentive to sell then. –Obviously not the way things actually work. In the real world, information is not usually sold in a competitive market. –Copyright allows producers to hold a monopoly. –Cartel structures inflate prices (e.g. music industry)
Features of Information Goods Information goods are nonrival –This means that the amount one person consumes does not affect the amount available to other people. This has issues for sellers of information goods –Traditional price competition is based on scarcity –If there are a limited number of widgets, people who want widgets more will pay more for them. Luxury cars, houses, stock –If there is no limit to the number of widgets available, no one will want to pay more than the lowest price.
Nonrivalry Nonrivalry leads us back to the problem of selling at zero cost –If goods arent scarce, no one will pay for them –If no one will pay for them, how do you get people to manufacture them? Traditional solution: allow the government to create a natural monopoly –Prices are regulated so as to meet social goals –E.g. telephone service before the AT&T breakup, NSF/DARPA control of Internet
Nonrivalry Today, natural monopolies are seen as counterproductive –Corporations exert undue influence in pricing and policy Content providers are still able to maintain partial monopolies through copyright –This allows them to set prices above marginal cost. –Appealing to producers, but inefficient –Some people would buy the good if it were available at a competitive price.
Features of Information Goods Information goods are often nonexcludable –This means that you cant prevent someone from getting the good without paying. –File-sharing is the most obvious example. Workarounds include indirect taxes –Britain has a set tax on televisions This means that information is sometimes thought of as a public good –Universally available, funded indirectly –Like streetlights, police, highways, PBS –Relationship between producer and consumer based on reciprocity rather than need
Excludability There are several strategies for dealing with the problem of excluding non-purchasers: –Couple information to a physical medium (such as a book) –Encryption and licensing –Auditing and user tracking (e.g. ASCAP) –Embrace copying and bundle with content that benefits from wide distribution (e.g. ads) Network TV does this – problem: maximizing revenue does not maximize consumer surplus
Features of Information Goods Information goods are experience goods (transparency) –This means that a consumer doesnt know exactly how much she values an information good until after it is consumed. –Example: I dont know how much Ill like the new Lord of the Rings movie until I see it. –Compare this to a traditional good, like a car. Problem: consumers have a hard time determining how much theyre willing to pay. Recommendations, reviews, try-before-purchase, reputation become important.
Open Source as a Solution Open Source solves the transparency problem –Full product is available for evaluation Excludability is the main weakness –Solutions: gift economy, pay for service, increase in status in labor market Some incentive for vendors to add proprietary solutions on top of open source projects –E.g Microsofts Java.
Pricing and Packaging All of these issues open the door for new ways to price, package, and distribute information. Solutions that might not make sense in a physical economy become possible when items being sold are digital. However, old rules and laws may not apply –New rules and laws are needed
Bundling Information goods can be easily bundled and unbundled –Different packages can be easily created. When marginal cost is very low, bundling is an attractive strategy –If any consumers will pay for a particular good, producers may as well include it. –Advertising or subsidized products can be bundled to increase revenue. –Example: Cable TV, Microsoft Office, BonziBuddy
Bundling Bundling is also a nice way to deal with heterogeneous consumer preferences. Example: two items: i 1 and i 2, two consumers c 1 and c 2 c 1 values i 1 at $5 and i 2 at $3 c 2 values i 2 at $5 and i 1 at $3 Assigning separate prices to each item, the best a seller can do is charge $3 and make $12 total. If a seller can bundle the two items together, he can charge $8 and make $16 total. –(there are similar examples in which consumers do better with bundling)
Value-added bundling Bundling can be used to add value to an existing product. A seller filters, bundles and organizes existing information goods. –RedHat –AP news wire –Brokerages –Cable packages Helps consumers deal with the glut of information Takes advantage of complementarity (two things are more valuable together than separately)