Group Size, Content Moderators, and User Engagement in Online Synchronous Content Platforms: Evidence from Live Streaming

49 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2022 Last revised: 27 Sep 2023

See all articles by Keran Zhao

Keran Zhao

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Supply Chain & Information Systems

Yili Hong

University of Miami Herbert Business School

Tengteng Ma

University of Illinois at Chicago

Yingda Lu

University of Illinois at Chicago

Yuheng Hu

University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Business Administration

Date Written: December 1, 2021

Abstract

Despite the focus of the digital content literature on asynchronous platforms (e.g., Reddit, Wikipedia, Yelp), synchronous content platforms like live streaming (e.g., Twitch, Youtube Live) have become increasingly popular for enabling real-time user engagement at scale. These platforms involve engaging a sizable user base, facilitating their interactions within a contemporaneous environment. As group size increases, real-time interactivity scales rapidly, making the engagement interface fast-paced and erratic. Consequently, live streaming channels often use moderators to address the challenge. While the existing literature finds that the audience’s group size 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 the impact of group size on viewers’ engagement in real-time. Furthermore, we delve into the role of moderators and their influence on this nuanced dynamic. Leveraging difference-in-discontinuity as the econometric identification strategy, we analyze panel data constructed with chat histories of 22,094 playbacks on Twitch. The results suggest that a) existing viewers tend to engage less after the increases in group size; b) the negative engagement effect is the product of nuanced net mediation effects by way of the increased topic incoherence that decreases engagement and content toxicity that increases engagement, with the former effect dominating; c) live streaming channels adopting bot or human moderators can better curb the negative effect, such that bot moderators only decrease the escalation of incoherence but not toxicity, while human moderators better limit surges in both incoherence and toxicity. The findings in this paper indicate a congestion effect, a negative network externality of increasing group size on viewer engagement in synchronous content platforms, further revealing a nuanced relationship among group size, topic incoherence, content toxicity, and user engagement. Our research further suggests the beneficial role of content moderators, which provides implications for online platforms operators and policy makers.

Keywords: Live streaming, group size, content moderator, topic incoherence, content toxicity, viewer engagement, congestion

Suggested Citation

Zhao, Keran and Hong, Yili and Ma, Tengteng and Lu, Yingda and Hu, Yuheng, Group Size, Content Moderators, and User Engagement in Online Synchronous Content Platforms: Evidence from Live Streaming (December 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4030879 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4030879

Keran Zhao

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Supply Chain & Information Systems ( email )

Dept. of Supply Chain & Information Systems
University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States

Yili Hong (Contact Author)

University of Miami Herbert Business School ( email )

P.O. Box 248126
Florida
Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

Tengteng Ma

University of Illinois at Chicago

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Yingda Lu

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

Yuheng Hu

University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Business Administration ( email )

601 S Morgan St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yuhenghu.com

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
391
Abstract Views
1,259
Rank
142,192
PlumX Metrics