Essays on new Internet market places.
University of Southampton, School of Social Sciences,
This thesis uses the techniques of economic theory to examine the behaviour of
agents in new marketplaces that have formed on the Internet. It is divided into
three chapters, each focusing upon a different aspect of market behaviour. I begin
in chapter 2 by building a simultaneous, unit demand, heterogeneous good,
ascending auction model, which I use to study the behaviour of bidders in Internet
auctions. Using this model, I demonstrate that late bidding—often observed
in eBay auctions—is not inconsistent with allocative efficiency. Moreover, I show
that when all agents are fully rational, have private values, and face a perfect
bid-transmission mechanism, there can still exit an incentive for bidders to systematically
delay their final bid. In a manner consistent with earlier empirical
observations, this incentive disappears when the hard-close ending rule is relaxed.
In chapter 3 I model strategic interaction amongst search engines that compete
to serve consumer needs. Search engines generate revenue from advertisers,
but also provide free organic search results. I demonstrate that, in an attempt to
win market share, search engines compete not only against each other, but also
against themselves: providing high-quality free links that compete for clicks with
their own advertisements—thus cannibalising their advertising revenues. In particular,
I find that in equilibrium consumers always (at least weakly) prefer to
click on at least one non-paid-for link before clicking on a revenue generating advertisement
so that some consumers never click an ad at all. That notwithstanding,
revenue cannibalisation provides an incentive for quality degradation, even
when the provision of quality is costless, and may engender low quality equilibria.
When search engines show differentiated advertisements, the incentive to reduce
quality is particularly strong.
Chapter 4 examines the relationship between the transmittability of information
via advertisements and the fee structure used by the advertisement’s publisher.
For an advertiser, sending general advertisements with inflationary claims
may attract additional consumers with whom it is poorly matched. This is costly
for the firm when it must pay for the ads on a per-click basis (i.e. when it must
pay for each consumer visit that it receives) since many of its visitors will not
purchase. As a consequence, I find that perfect information transmission can always
be sustained when adverts are priced per-click. By contrast, when firms pay
for advertisements on a per-impression basis or on a per-sale basis, there is no
disincentive to attracting poorly matched consumers, and maximum profits are
obtained by attracting all consumers with some positive probability of purchase.
This feature undermines the existence of fully informative equilibria under such
fee structures, and may result in no information transmission being possible at
all. Consumers benefit from increased informativeness, but distortions introduced
by the market power given to advertisers imply that society may be better-off with
no information transmission taking place.
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