by Cathy Resmer
Is anybody else out there reading Chris Anderson's new book The Long Tail? I got it a couple weeks ago and am about halfway through. I keep stopping because I read something that gives me an idea, and I start sketching it out and stop reading.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept of the long tail, read Anderson's blog, linked above, or check out the Wikipedia entry. Basically, he uses a nifty little graph (the long tail) to argue that thanks to the Internet, it makes economic sense for businesses to offer their customers access to lots of niche content as opposed to offering only the mainstream hits. He often cites Netflix (as opposed to Blockbuster Video) and Amazon (as opposed to Barnes and Noble) as good examples of this model. This is reflected in the book's subtitle, "Why the future of business is selling less of more."
He also apparently talks about how this is changing the culture and why it's a good thing, though I haven't gotten to that part yet. I'm not so sure that eliminating mainstream mass culture is a good thing. I wonder if he'll convince me?
I first heard about the long tail at a blogger conference in North Carolina a year and a half ago, and was captivated by the idea. It's a neat little concept that, if true, presents some exciting possibilities. I say "if true" because I read the house copy of the Wall Street Journal this morning at Uncommon Grounds in Burlington and saw this skeptical review.
I don't feel prepared to offer any kind of comprehensive analysis yet, but I'd say that most of what I've read so far rings true to me. As a former zinester and as a current producer and fan of microniche web content, I think it's all pretty exciting.