July 26, 2006
News & Opinion: A little more on The Long Tail
The Wall Street Journal continues to publish commentary from folks who question The Long Tail. For the book review of The Long Tail [sub. needed], they tapped Steven Zeitchik of Variety magazine. He believes that Anderson does a good job of describing the existence of the Long Tail, but fails in convincing him of the effects it is going to have on media.
Lee Gomes today questions if The Long Tail even exists [sub. needed]. He follows up with Anderson and some of Anderson's sources and find that hits still matter. He uses the Amazon data to show that 2.7% of Amazon's titles account for 75% of their revenues.
Gomes completely misses the point. The shape of a power law curve (which describes many things in nature including distribution of cities' populations and species' sizes) is tall at the beginning. American Idol, Star Wars, and some version of N'Sync will always exist.
The point is the Tail and how the Tail is getting longer. 25% of Amazon's sales come from books you could not find in a retail store. These are sales that would not have existed, period. What is economically viable has changed and will continue to change with more aggregation of demand and digitization of content. Also important will be filtering tools that get you to finding the good content.