Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 40 Number 2 2023 pp. 683-711

Token Incentives in a Volatile Crypto Market: The Effects of Token Price Volatility on User Contribution

Chen, Kun, Fan, Yifan, and Liao, Shaoyi Stephen


Crypto tokens, issued and managed via smart contracts, function as rewards in blockchain systems to encourage user participation. Distinct from monetary incentives, token incentives are uncertain in reward magnitude due to the large swings in token prices on crypto markets. By focusing on token price volatility, this study investigates how the reward uncertainty affects user contribution in a tokenized digital platform. Our empirical setting is Steemit, a platform where bloggers write posts and share token rewards based on their posts’ popularity. We find that while high token price volatility induces a large volume of blog posts, it diminishes post quality. The dichotomous effects are explained via two mechanisms: users’ direct reactions to reward uncertainties and their indirect reactions, mediated by altered token preference amid volatility shocks. Deeply exploring this dynamic process, our results reveal that token price volatility facilitates a platform’s network short-term effect but impairs long-term user creativity. Our empirical findings thus extend the literature on blockchain economics and cryptocurrencies and have practical implications for the design of incentive mechanisms on tokenized digital platforms.

Key words and phrases: Crypto markets, price volatility, tokenized digital platforms, incentive mechanism design, user contribution, smart contracts, token incentives, digital tokens, token prices, blockchain prices