Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 27 Number 2 2010 pp. 127-157

Are Consumers More Likely to Contribute Online Reviews for Hit or Niche Products?

Dellarocas, Chrysanthos, Gao, Guodong Gordon, and Narayan, Ritu

ABSTRACT: User-generated content has been hailed by some as a democratizing force that enables consumers to discuss niche products that were previously ignored by mainstream media. Nevertheless, the extent to which consumers truly prefer to use these new outlets to discuss lesser-known products as opposed to spending most of their energies on discussing widely marketed or already successful products has so far remained an open question. We explore this question by investigating how a population's propensity to contribute postconsumption online reviews for different products of the same category (motion pictures) relates to various indicators of those products' popularity. We discover that, ceteris paribus, consumers prefer to post reviews for products that are less available and less successful in the market. At the same time, however, they are also more likely to contribute reviews for products that many other people have already commented on online. The presence of these two opposite forces leads to a U-shaped relationship between a population's average propensity to review a movie postconsumption and that movie's box office revenues: moviegoers appear to be more likely to contribute reviews for very obscure movies but also for very high-grossing movies. Our findings suggest that online forum designers who wish to increase the contribution of user reviews for lesser-known products should make information about the volume of previously posted reviews a less-prominent feature of their sites.

Key words and phrases: consumer behavior, econometrics, information intermediaries, online product reviews, online word of mouth, Web 2.0