Cross-Platform Spillover Effects in Consumption of Viral Content: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis Using Synthetic Controls
50 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2017 Last revised: 17 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 15, 2019
To inform product release and distribution strategies, research has analyzed cross-market spillovers in new product adoption. However, models that examine these effects for digital and viral media are still evolving. Given resistance to advertising, firms often seek to promote their own viral content to boost brand awareness. However, a key shortcoming of virality is its ephemeral nature. To gain insight into sustaining virality, we develop a quasi-experimental approach that estimates the backward spillover onto a focal platform by introducing a piece of content onto a new platform. We posit that introducing content to the audience of a new platform can generate word-of-mouth (WOM), which may affect its consumption within an earlier platform. We estimate these spillovers using data on 381 viral videos on 26 platforms (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo), and observe how consumption of videos on an initial “lead” platform is affected by their subsequent introduction onto “lag” platforms. This spillover is estimated as follows: for each multi-platform video, we compare its view growth after being introduced onto a new platform to that of a synthetic control based on similar single-platform videos. Analysis of 275 such spillover scenarios reveals that introducing a video onto a lag platform roughly doubles its subsequent view growth in the lead platform. This positive cross-platform spillover is persistent, bursty, and strongest in the first 42 days. We find that spillover is boosted when the video is consumed more in the lag platform, when the consumption rate peaks earlier in the lag platform, and when the lag platform targets a foreign market. Delaying a video’s introduction onto a lag platform affects spillover concavely, while its introduction onto additional platforms shows diminishing returns. We find further support for positive spillover through a small-scale randomized field experiment. Implications are discussed for platforms, content creators, and policy makers.
Keywords: spillover effect, quasi-experiments, synthetic control, information diffusion, viral marketing
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