Pricing Digital Goods: Discontinuous Costs and Shared Infrastructure
National University of Singapore - Department of Information Systems
New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business
August 1, 2011
NET Institute Working Paper No. 06-11
In this paper we analyze a model of usage pricing for digital products with discontinuous supply functions, which characterizes a number of information technology-based products and services for which variable increases in demand are fulfilled by the addition of "blocks" of computing or network infrastructure. Such goods are often modeled as information goods with zero variable costs; in fact, the actual cost structure resembles a mixture of positive periodic fixed costs and zero marginal costs. This paper discusses the properties of a general solution for the optimal nonlinear pricing of such digital goods. We show that the discontinuous cost structure can be accrued as a virtual constant variable cost. This general solution is applied to solve two related extensions. First, this paper investigates the optimal technology capacity planning when the cost function is both discontinuous and declining over time. Second, we characterize the optimal costing for the discontinuous supply when it is shared by several business profit centers. Our finding suggests that the widely adopted full-cost-recovery policies are typically suboptimal.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: digital goods, price discrimination, nonlinear pricing, screening, discontinuous costs, shared infrastructure, Moore's Law
JEL Classification: D41, D82, L1working papers series
Date posted: October 26, 2006 ; Last revised: September 4, 2011
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