Group Size, Content Moderators, and User Engagement in Online Synchronous Content Platforms
50 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2022
Date Written: December 1, 2021
Online platforms for synchronous content, such as live streaming, have gained considerable popularity most recently. These platforms involve engaging a large number of users and facilitating their interactions in a real-time setting. One key difference between asynchronous platforms (e.g., Reddit, Wikipedia) and synchronous platforms (e.g., Twitch, Youtube Live) is the real-time interactivity. As group size increases, real-time interactivity scales rapidly, making the engagement interface erratic and fast-paced. While the existing literature finds that the group size of peers or audience has a positive effect on user engagement on asynchronous platforms, how group size affects synchronous interactions, particularly with the presence of bot and human moderators, is unclear. In this work, we leverage exogenous increases in live streaming viewers (from the Raid function in Twitch) to empirically examine how group size affects viewers’ real-time engagement and how moderators affect this relationship. Leveraging difference-in-discontinuity in tandem with inverse probability treatment weighting based on covariate balancing propensity scores as econometric identification strategies, we analyze panel data constructed with chat histories of 8,396 playbacks on Twitch. The results suggest that a) the live streaming channel generally engages more viewers after group size increases; b) however, existing viewers (users are already in the live streaming channel before the Raid) tend to engage less after the increases in group size; c) there are more diverse topics covered in the chat room after group size increases, and d) live streaming channels adopting bot moderators can better sustain viewer engagement after group size increases while human moderator can better organize the chat content. The findings in this paper indicate a congestion effect of increasing group size viewer engagement in the synchronous communication setting and suggest the beneficial role of content moderators, which extends the prior literature on user engagement in online platforms.
Keywords: Live streaming, content moderator, viewer engagement, congestion
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