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Estimating the Socio-Economic Impact of Product Reviews: Mining Text and Reviewer Characteristics

Authors: Ghose, Anindya
Ipeirotis, Panagiotis G.
Issue Date: 2-Sep-2008
Series/Report no.: CeDER-08-06
Abstract: With the rapid growth of the Internet, the ability of users to create and publish content has created active electronic communities that provide a wealth of product information. However, the high volume of reviews that are typically published for a single product makes harder for individuals as well as manufacturers to locate the best reviews and understand the true underlying quality of a product. In this paper, we re-examine the impact of reviews on economic outcomes like product sales and see how different factors affect social outcomes like the extent of their perceived usefulness. Our approach explores multiple aspects of review text, such as lexical, grammatical, semantic, and stylistic levels to identify important text-based features. In addition, we also examine multiple reviewer-level features such as average usefulness of past reviews and the self-disclosed identity measures of reviewers that are displayed next to a review. Our econometric analysis reveals that the extent of subjectivity, informativeness, readability, and linguistic correctness in reviews matters in influencing sales and perceived usefulness. Reviews that have a mixture of objective, and highly subjective sentences have a negative effect on product sales, compared to reviews that tend to include only subjective or only objective information. However, such reviews are considered more informative (or helpful) by the users. By using Random Forest based classifiers, we show that we can accurately predict the impact of reviews on sales and their perceived usefulness. Reviews for products that have received widely fluctuating reviews, also have reviews of widely fluctuating helpfulness. In particular, we find that highly detailed and readable reviews can have low helpfulness votes in cases when users tend to vote negatively not because they disapprove of the review quality but rather to convey their disapproval of the review polarity. We examine the relative importance of the three broad feature categories: `reviewer-related' features, `review subjectivity' features, and `review readability' features, and find that using any of the three feature sets results in a statistically equivalent performance as in the case of using all available features. This paper is the first study that integrates econometric, text mining, and predictive modeling techniques toward a more complete analysis of the information captured by user-generated online reviews in order to estimate their socio-economic impact. Our results can have implications for judicious design of opinion forums.
Appears in Collections:CeDER Working Papers

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