An Empirical Examination of the Antecedents and Consequences of Investment Patterns in Crowd-Funded Markets.

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electronic commerce
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Burtch, Gordon
Ghose, Anindya
Wattal, Sunil

Crowd-funded markets have recently emerged as a novel source of capital for entrepreneurs. As the economic potential of these markets is now being realized, they are beginning to go mainstream, a trend reflected by the explicit attention crowdfunding has received in the American Jobs Act as a potential avenue for economic growth, as well as the recent focus that regulators such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have placed upon it. Although the formulation of regulation and policy surrounding crowd-funded markets is becoming increasingly important, the behavior of crowdfunders, an important aspect that must be considered in this formulation effort, is not yet well understood. A key factor that can influence the behavior of crowd funders is information on prior contribution behavior, including the amount and timing of others' contributions, which is published for general consumption. With that in mind, in this study, we empirically examine social influence in a crowd-funded marketplace for online journalism projects, employing a unique data set that incorporates contribution events and Web traffic statistics for approximately 100 story pitches. This data set allows us to examine both the antecedents and consequences of the contribution process. First, noting that digital journalism is a form of public good, we evaluate the applicability of two competing classes of economic models that explain private contribution toward public goods in the presence of social information: substitution models and reinforcement models. We also propose a new measure that captures both the amount and the timing of others' contribution behavior: contribution frequency (dollars per unit time). We find evidence in support of a substitution model, which suggests a partial crowding-out effect, where contributors may experience a decrease in their marginal utility from making a contribution as it becomes less important to the recipient. Further, we find that the duration of funding and, more importantly, the degree of exposure that a pitch receives over the course of the funding process, are positively associated with readership upon the story's publication. This appears to validate the widely held belief that a key benefit of the crowdfunding model is the potential it offers for awareness and attention-building around causes and ventures. This last aspect is a major contribution of the study, as it demonstrates a clear linkage between marketing effort and the success of crowd-funded projects.

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