Monday, November 29, 2010

Market design at Amazon

The following job market ad at  for a new economist at Amazon caught my eye, both for what it suggests about the kind of internal research Amazon hopes to do, and about what kind of economists they hope to hire:

"Economists at Amazon will be expected to work directly with chief economist Patrick Bajari and senior management on key business problems faced in retail, international retail, cloud computing, third party merchants, search, Kindle and operations. Amazon economists will apply the frontier of economic thinking to market design, pricing, forecasting, online advertising and other areas. You apply econometric modeling, working with our world class data systems, and economic theory to business problems. In addition, economists at Amazon will be expected to maintain an independent and active research agenda, publishing in leading academic journals."

"Basic Qualifications: PhD in Economics or anticipating completion of a PhD in Economics by Aug 2011
"Preferred Qualifications:
Strong background in econometrics, industrial organization, economic theory and quantitative methods
Ability to work in a fast paced business environment
Strong research track record
Effective verbal and written communication skills

Most companies don't hire researchers who publish. Companies that do often are aiming at people who already have academic jobs, and want to keep the possibility open of returning to academia, and in that case the ability to publish (permission to use company data plus time to write papers) is a perk aimed at attracting the right kind of people.

I don't know how much success Amazon has had in the past at hiring economists with active research agendas, but now that they've hired Bajari they clearly have some prospects, particularly if they will be open to having their economists publish about some of the very interesting design problems that Amazon faces, as a marketplace for goods, for merchants, and for computing services.

Amazon likely has particularly good data--they seem to be able to keep track of the same commodity sold by their various different vendors. And each of their three big marketplaces offers the possibility for conducting very interesting experiments.

So...maybe Amazon will start being a source of new research in market design. We'll have to wait and see.

And incidentally, does anyone remember when only banks had a post called Chief Economist?  That title is now a tech title too (e.g. Hal Varian at Google and Susan Athey at Microsoft.) Together with the employment of microeconomists under other job titles (e.g. Preston McAfee, David Reiley and Michael Schwarz at Yahoo!, and Paul Milgrom in various entrepreneurial ventures over the years), it's a sign that market design and experiments and related ideas are coming of age.


Anonymous said...

This seems like a perfect job for a couple of years (or perhaps more) for someone who has a good research idea answering which requires internal Amazon data.

TJGodel said...

I've been interested in the work of Chief Economist like Hal Varian for quite sometime, because of the potential rich data he has to work with at Google. Unfortunately I have seen any published work. Your blog is my main source for thinking about market design.