The Economics of Two-Sided Markets

Marc Rysman
2009 Journal of Economic Perspectives  
A t a local Best Buy, a child places a new Sony PlayStation 3 on the cashier's counter while the parents dig out their Visa card. The gaming system and the payment card may appear to have little connection other than this purchase. However, these two items share an important characteristic that is generating a series of economic insights and has important implications for strategic decision making and economic policymaking. Both video game systems and payment cards are examples of two-sided
more » ... es of two-sided markets. Broadly speaking, a two-sided market is one in which 1) two sets of agents interact through an intermediary or platform, and 2) the decisions of each set of agents affects the outcomes of the other set of agents, typically through an externality. In the case of a video game system, the intermediary is the console producer-Sony in the scenario above-while the two sets of agents are consumers and video game developers. Neither consumers nor game developers will be interested in the PlayStation if the other party is not. Similarly, a successful payment card requires both consumer usage and merchant acceptance, where both consumers and merchants value each others' participation. Many more products fit into this paradigm, such as search engines, newspapers, and almost any advertisersupported media (examples in which consumers often negatively value, rather than positively value, the participation of the other side), as well as most software or title-based operating systems and consumer electronics. Malls which seek retailers and consumers, convention organizers which seek buyers and sellers, dating services which seek men and women, and The Journal of Economic Perspectives which seeks content and readership, all experience the economics of two-sided markets. The multi-sided nature of many Internet and high-technology markets, as well as
doi:10.1257/jep.23.3.125 fatcat:fioi7kaevvbwfkg5xkfaoo2e7i