Screening with Network Externalities

54 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2018 Last revised: 4 Mar 2020

See all articles by Fanqi Shi

Fanqi Shi

School of Economics, Peking University

Yiqing Xing

Peking University - National School of Development

Date Written: March 3, 2020


Network externality is a prominent feature of increasingly many products: the marginal payoff of one’s consumption increases as his neighbors consume more. In- formation of network structure is important to the seller, but is often privately known to the buyers. We model a monopoly’s optimal pricing strategy to “screen” buyers’ network information: their susceptibility (out-degree) and influence (in-degree). Our main result is that susceptibility and influence have different effects on the optimal allocations and can be separated out in the optimal screening contracts. Specifically, we characterize the optimal allocations for both directed networks where each buyer’s susceptibility and influence are independent, and undirected networks where the two are identical. For directed networks, we show the optimal allocation only depends on a buyer’s susceptibility and exhibits simple forms with quadratic intrinsic value. We further contrast the analysis with two benchmarks – complete information pricing and uniform pricing – to shed light on the value of screening and the value of network in- formation. For undirected networks, we show the seller directly screens buyers on their susceptibility and indirectly condition the allocations on their inferred influence. We also extend the model to accommodate for (1) weak affiliation between a buyer’s susceptibility and influence, (2) the case in which the monopoly can incentivize influence with contingent contracts (referral bonuses), and (3) the situation in which susceptibility and influence are endogenous to the optimal allocations.

Keywords: Network effects, consumption externalities, hidden network information, screening, price discrimination, non-linear pricing, value of information

JEL Classification: D42, D47, D82, D85, L00, M21

Suggested Citation

Shi, Fanqi and Xing, Yiqing, Screening with Network Externalities (March 3, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Fanqi Shi

School of Economics, Peking University ( email )

No. 5 Yi Heyuan Road
Beijing, 100871
+8613520791730 (Phone)

Yiqing Xing (Contact Author)

Peking University - National School of Development ( email )

Beijing, 100871

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