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The Sales Effect of Word of Mouth: A Model for Creative Goods and Estimates for Novels

  • Jonathan Beck

Weekly sales of creative goods - like music records, movies or books - usually peak shortly after release and then decline quickly. In many cases, however, they follow a hump-shaped pattern where sales increase for some time. A popular explanation for this phenomenon is word of mouth among a population of heterogeneous buyers, but previous studies typically assume buyer homogeneity or neglect word of mouth altogether. In this paper, I study a model of new-product diffusion with heterogeneous buyers that allows for a quantification of the sales effect of word of mouth. The model includes Christmas sales as a special case. All parameters have an intuitive interpretation. Simulation results suggest that the parameters are estimable for data that are not too volatile and that cover a sufficiently large part of a title’s life cycle. I estimate the model for four exemplary novels using scanner data on weekly sales. ZUSAMMENFASSUNG - (Die Verkaufswirkung von Mundpropaganda: ein Modell für kreative Produkte und Schätzwerte für Romane) Meistens erreichen die wöchentlichen Verkäufe von kreativen Produkten wie Musikalben, Kinofilmen oder Büchern kurz nach Veröffentlichung ihren Höhepunkt und nehmen dann schnell ab. In einigen Fällen jedoch zeigen sie einen buckelartigen Verlauf mit zunächst ansteigenden Verkäufen. Eine populäre Erklärung für dieses Phänomen beruht auf der Existenz von Mundpropaganda unter heterogenen Käufern, doch bisherige Studien gehen typischerweise von der Annahme homogener Käufer aus oder vernachlässigen Mundpropaganda gänzlich. Dieses Papier betrachtet ein Modell der Verbreitung neuer Produkte unter heterogenen Käufern, welches eine Quantifizierung der Verkaufswirkung von Mundpropaganda ermöglicht. Das Modell beinhaltet Weihnachtsverkäufe als Spezialfall. Alle Modellparameter haben eine intuitive Bedeutung. Ergebnisse einer Simulation zeigen, dass die Parameter empirisch geschätzt werden können, wenn die Daten einen hinreichend großen Teil des Verkaufszyklus eines Titels abdecken und nicht zu volatil sind. Das Modell wird auf Scannerdaten für vier exemplarische Romane angewendet.

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Paper provided by Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG) in its series CIG Working Papers with number SP II 2006-16.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in the Journal of Cultural Economics , Vol. 31(1), Mar. 2007, pp. 5-23.
Handle: RePEc:wzb:wzebiv:spii2006-16
Contact details of provider: Postal: Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Germany
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  1. Victor Ginsburgh & David Throsby, 2006. "Handbook of the Eonomics of Art and Culture," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152412, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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