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What makes a critic tick? Connected authors and the determinants of book reviews

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  • Dobrescu, Loretti I.
  • Luca, Michael
  • Motta, Alberto

Abstract

This paper investigates the determinants of expert reviews in the book industry. Reviews are determined not only by the quality of the product but also by the incentives of the media outlet providing the review. For example, a media outlet may have the incentive to provide favorable coverage to certain authors or to slant reviews toward the horizontal preferences of certain readers. Empirically, we find that an author's connection to the media outlet is related to the outcome of the review decision. When a book's author also writes for a media outlet, that outlet is 25% more likely to review the book relative to other media outlets, and the resulting ratings are roughly 5% higher. Prima facie, it is unclear whether media outlets are favoring their own authors because these are the authors that their readers prefer or simply because they are trying to collude. We provide a test to distinguish between these two potential mechanisms, and present evidence that this is because of tastes rather than collusion – the effect of connections is present both for authors who began writing for a media outlet before and after the book release. We then investigate other determinants of expert reviews. Both consumers and expert reviewers seem to favor authors who have won book prizes. Yet relative to consumer reviews, professional critics are less favorable to first time authors and more favorable to authors who have garnered other attention in the press (as measured by number of media mentions outside of the review).

Suggested Citation

  • Dobrescu, Loretti I. & Luca, Michael & Motta, Alberto, 2013. "What makes a critic tick? Connected authors and the determinants of book reviews," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 85-103.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:96:y:2013:i:c:p:85-103
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2013.08.008
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Camara, Fanny & Dupuis, Nicolas, 2014. "Structural Estimation of Expert Strategic Bias: The Case of Movie Reviewers," TSE Working Papers 14-534, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Michael Luca, 2016. "Designing Online Marketplaces: Trust and Reputation Mechanisms," NBER Chapters,in: Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 17, pages 77-93 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Stefano Dellavigna & Johannes Hermle, 2017. "Does Conflict of Interest Lead to Biased Coverage? Evidence from Movie Reviews," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(4), pages 1510-1550.
    4. Tom Hamami, 2016. "Network Effects, Bargaining Power, and Product Review Bias: Theory and Evidence," 2016 Papers pha1136, Job Market Papers.
    5. Keuschnigg, Marc, 2015. "Product Success in Cultural Markets: The Mediating Role of Familiarity, Peers, and Experts," MPRA Paper 63444, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Michael Luca, 2016. "Designing Online Marketplaces: Trust and Reputation Mechanisms," NBER Working Papers 22616, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Thomas J. Miles, 2015. "Do Attorney Surveys Measure Judicial Performance or Respondent Ideology? Evidence from Online Evaluations," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(S1), pages 231-267.
    8. Michael Luca, 2016. "Designing Online Marketplaces: Trust and Reputation Mechanisms," Harvard Business School Working Papers 17-017, Harvard Business School.

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