Bundling and Competition on the Internet:

Aggregation Strategies for Information Goods

 

Yannis Bakos
Stern School of Business, New York University

Erik Brynjolfsson
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

This version: April 1999

 

Working Paper Series, Stern School of Business, New York University
Working Paper Series, MIT Sloan School of Management


ABSTRACT

The Internet has significantly reduced the marginal cost of producing and distributing digital information goods. It also coincides with the emergence of new competitive strategies such as large scale bundling. In this paper, we show that bundling can create "economies of aggregation" for information goods if their marginal costs are very low, even in the absence of network externalities or economies of scale or scope.

We find that these economies of aggregation have several important competitive implications:

  1. When competing for upstream content, larger bundlers are able to outbid smaller ones.

  2. When competing for downstream consumers, the act of bundling information goods makes an incumbent seem "tougher" to single-product competitors selling similar goods. The resulting equilibrium is less profitable for potential entrants, and can discourage entry in the bundler's markets even when the entrants have a superior cost structure or quality.

  3. Conversely, by simply adding an information good to an existing bundle, a bundler may be able to profitably enter a new market and dislodge an incumbent who does not bundle, capturing most of the market share from the incumbent firm and even driving the incumbent out of business.

  4. Because a bundler can potentially capture a large share of profits in new markets, single-product firms may have lower incentives to innovate and create such markets.

However, bundlers may have higher incentives to innovate. For most physical goods, which have non-trivial marginal costs, the potential impact of large-scale aggregation is limited. However, we find that these effects can be decisive for the success or failure of information goods. Our results have particular empirical relevance to the markets for software and Internet content.

 

Copyright 1998, 1999 by Yannis Bakos and Erik Brynjolfsson