Zero Pricing Platform Competition

37 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020

Date Written: March 30, 2020


This article studies competition between different types of ad-funded platforms attracting consumers with free services. Consumers often find advertisements a nuisance on such platforms. We study how under a competitive setting platforms balance the tension between attracting consumers and rent extraction from the advertising side. We propose a flexible yet simple model that studies competition between standard platforms and social media platforms (with same-side network effects). We find that an increase in either positive same-side network effects or an increase in consumer disutility from advertisements leads to a reduction in the number of ads on that platform. When competing platforms merge, consumer side network effects do not impact prices and the number of ads is higher. In a setting where consumers present a negative (congestion) externality on each other, competition fails to protect consumer welfare and behaves erratically. Finally, we present a few extensions and discuss some policy implications.

Keywords: social media platforms, platforms, two-sided markets, same side network effects, cross side network effects, advertising

JEL Classification: L13, L22, L86, K21

Suggested Citation

Shekhar, Shiva, Zero Pricing Platform Competition (March 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Shiva Shekhar (Contact Author)

University of Passau ( email )

Innstrasse 27
Passau, 94032

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