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Approximate Revenue Maximization with Multiple Items

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  • Sergiu Hart

    ()

  • Noam Nisan

    ()

Abstract

Myerson’s classic result provides a full description of how a seller can maximize revenue when selling a single item. We address the question of revenue maximization in the simplest possible multi-item setting: two items and a single buyer who has independently distributed values for the items, and an additive valuation. In general, the revenue achievable from selling two independent items may be strictly higher than the sum of the revenues obtainable by selling each of them separately. In fact, the structure of optimal (i.e., revenue-maximizing) mechanisms for two items even in this simple setting is not understood. In this paper we obtain approximate revenue optimization results using two simple auctions: that of selling the items separately, and that of selling them as a single bundle. Our main results (which are of a “direct sum” variety, and apply to any distributions) are as follows. Selling the items separately guarantees at least half the revenue of the optimal auction; for identically distributed items, this becomes at least 73% of the optimal revenue. For the case of k > 2 items, we show that selling separately guarantees at least a c/log^2 k fraction of the optimal revenue; for identically distributed items, the bundling auction yields at least a c/log k fraction of the optimal revenue.

Suggested Citation

  • Sergiu Hart & Noam Nisan, 2012. "Approximate Revenue Maximization with Multiple Items," Discussion Paper Series dp606, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp606
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Pavlov Gregory, 2011. "Optimal Mechanism for Selling Two Goods," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-35, February.
    2. Sergiu Hart & Noam Nisan, 2013. "The Menu-Size Complexity of Auctions," Discussion Paper Series dp637, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
    3. repec:eee:jetheo:v:172:y:2017:i:c:p:313-347 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Hanming Fang & Peter Norman, 2006. "To bundle or not to bundle," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 946-963, December.
    5. Manelli, Alejandro M. & Vincent, Daniel R., 2012. "Multidimensional mechanism design: Revenue maximization and the multiple-good monopoly. A corrigendum," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(6), pages 2492-2493.
    6. Menicucci, Domenico & Hurkens, Sjaak & Jeon, Doh-Shin, 2015. "On the optimality of pure bundling for a monopolist," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 33-42.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jetheo:v:172:y:2017:i:c:p:313-347 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Reny, Philip J. & Hart, Sergiu, 2015. "Maximal revenue with multiple goods: nonmonotonicity and other observations," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 10(3), September.
    3. Tang, Pingzhong & Wang, Zihe, 2017. "Optimal mechanisms with simple menus," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 54-70.
    4. Baisa, Brian, 2017. "Auction design without quasilinear preferences," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(1), January.
    5. Hafalir, Isa & Miralles, Antonio, 2015. "Welfare-maximizing assignment of agents to hierarchical positions," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 253-270.
    6. repec:eee:matsoc:v:88:y:2017:i:c:p:11-15 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Hart, Sergiu & Nisan, Noam, 2017. "Approximate revenue maximization with multiple items," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 313-347.
    8. Mishra, Debasis & Pramanik, Anup & Roy, Souvik, 2014. "Multidimensional mechanism design in single peaked type spaces," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 103-116.
    9. Briest, Patrick & Chawla, Shuchi & Kleinberg, Robert & Weinberg, S. Matthew, 2015. "Pricing lotteries," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 144-174.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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