Peer Awards Increase User Content Generation but Reduce Content Novelty

46 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2019

See all articles by Gordon Burtch

Gordon Burtch

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Qinglai He

Arizona State University

Yili Hong

Arizona State University (ASU) - W.P. Carey School of Business

Dokyun (DK) Lee

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Date Written: October 1, 2019

Abstract

Platforms that depend on user-generated content spend a great deal of effort crafting policies and mechanisms that can yield a steady stream of engaging content. In this work, we consider the effects of awards offered by peers, a feature that many platforms provide to enable users to recognize the quality of their peers’ contributions. We conduct a large-scale field experiment on Reddit, one of the largest social news aggregation and discussion platforms in the world and evaluate the effect of peer awards on content generation in terms of both volume and novelty. We leverage Reddit’s native peer award feature, the Gold Award, purchasing and randomly assigning Gold to 905 posts, anonymously, over the course of two months. We collect and analyze users’ behavioral trace data and posting content over the period leading up to and following our treatments via Reddit’s API. We find that, on average, peer awards raise the probability that treated subjects will make additional Reddit posts by 6.6%, in addition to lengthening treated subjects’ posts by approximately 39.6%. Interestingly, however, we also observe that the content users post under treatment exhibits greater similarity to past content (particularly the intervention post), indicating a decline in novelty. Based on this result, we conclude that peer awards are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they foster increased engagement and content production among recipients. On the other hand, the additional content that awards elicit is less novel.

Keywords: Peer awards, user-generated content, novelty, Reddit, text-mining, field experiment

Suggested Citation

Burtch, Gordon and He, Qinglai and Hong, Yili and Lee, Dokyun (DK), Peer Awards Increase User Content Generation but Reduce Content Novelty (October 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3465879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3465879

Gordon Burtch

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Qinglai He

Arizona State University ( email )

Tempe, AZ
United States

Yili Hong (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - W.P. Carey School of Business ( email )

Tempe, AZ 85287-3706
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yilihong.github.io/

Dokyun (DK) Lee

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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