Research Note—When Is Versioning Optimal for Information Goods?
Management Science, 2008

This paper by Professor Hemant Bhargava and Vidyanand Choudhary from UC Irvine provides insights about when versioning is an optimal strategy for information goods. The authors’ characterization of this class of goods is that variable costs are invariant with quality, including the special case of zero variable costs. This paper’s analysis assumes a monopoly firm that has an existing product in the market and has an opportunity to segment the market by introducing additional lower-quality versions.

The authors derive a simple decision rule for determining the optimality of versioning based on the solution to a single-product maximization problem. Versioning is optimal when the optimal market share of the lower-quality version, offered alone, is greater than the optimal market share of the high-quality version, offered alone. A firm can profitably employ versioning for an information good if it can design the lower quality in a way that, relative to their valuations for the high-end version, high-type consumers have a lower relative valuation for the lower quality than do low-type consumers. When variable costs increase, a firm that offered only one product version need not consider adding another version. When variable costs decrease, the firm should explore adding a lower-quality version.