Reto Hofstetter, Professor of Marketing at the Faculty of Economics and Management of the University of Lucerne will be visiting us in the next PhD Seminar in Quantitative Marketing Research. He will give a talk on “The Returns to Originality: Micro Evidence From an Online Crowdsourcing Platform”

We collect micro-data on all design contests, submissions and participants from the inception of
crowdSPRING, a large online crowdsourced ideation platform. Using these data we document that
designers (“solvers”) who enter later into contests tend to imitate better rated designs that are submitted
prior to their entry, thereby generating significant risk to early entrants that their ideas will
be appropriated by later entrants without recompense. Such imitation, when unpunished, calls into
question the long-run viability of such platforms as marketplaces where original ideas are recognized
and rewarded. As a countervailing force, we document however that agents running the contests
(“seekers”) tend to reward original early designs, and avoid picking as winners those that seem to be
plagiarizing and free-riding. Further, in repeated play, solvers seem to be adjusting their behavior
in response to this reward/punishment policy. These patterns suggest that market behavior on such
platforms may have a self-policing component that disincentivizes excessive plagiarism and rewards