More long tail tales

While some journalists are busy lamenting the horrors of the Internet economy’s “long tail” effect on the arts, Lee Gomes, technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, asked today if Anderson’s data really adds up.

The article is online here (subscription required).

Anderson responds here.

I find Anderson’s refutations of the column plausible. It will be interesting to see if Gomes takes up the subject again.

My dog in the fight, of course, is the fate of writers who have the chops to please a sizeable readership, but for whatever reason fail to hit a bestseller list. Solid midlisters have done okay, income-wise, in the past. Will that be true in the future?

Hopefully, someday, someone will tackle that issue without succumbing to the “end of the good ol’ days” hand-wringing that has characterized the attempts so far.

[tags] writing, long tail [/tags]

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2 Responses to More long tail tales

  1. Phil Leigh says:

    Gomes’ analysis is thought provoking. But find it hard to agree for a couple of reasons.

    First, Napster 2.0, Yahoo Music Unlimited, and Rhapsody have all consistently stated that the principal value of a subscription service is the unlimited access to an abundant catalogue. Moreover, each has also said that the actual subscriber use statistics bear out the merits of the idea.

    Second, my personal experience so strongly supports the long tail, that it’s hard for me to assume it is radically different to the average person. For example, I was immediately attracted to ten years ago because of its vast inventory. Similarly, the chief reason I was (unsuccessfully) tempted to use Shawn Fanning’s Napster was that almost any recording was available. That’s why I now subscribe to Rhapsody, although the catalogue is still not big enough. I want even more of a tail.

    What’s your personal experience?

  2. Kirsten says:

    Hi, Phil,

    I tend to frame my personal experience in somewhat broader terms. I use a lot of nichey products, but that dates to well before Internet commerce even existed (I’m thinking of things like food co-ops before you could find brown rice in supermarkets, and gift/import boutiques or second-hand stores that carry items you can’t find in mass merchant stores). So in this regard, I see myself as benefiting from the increasing granularization of consumer markets that’s been going on for some time now . . . mass marketing has been on the way out for awhile. What the Internet has done is give marketers a hefty tool for locating and serving customers on a more individualized basis.

    That said, I can’t take myself seriously as a data point, because by definition I’m an outlyer. In the last year, I haven’t bought a copy of The Da Vinci Code; I have bought a copy of AE Housman’s The Name and Nature of Poetry. But that doesn’t prove that on aggregate publishers will make more money selling one-offs of obscure titles than they will from TDVC-style pop blockbusters . . . I can’t buy THAT many books, lol

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