Chasing the tail

The Wall Street Journal's Lee Gomes again misses the point about the Long Tail. In a widely blogged-about column last week, he called into questions much of the basis of Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail. I won't go into that argument here, but suffice to say I disagree. In a Tuesday column, Gomes again tilts at the book, arguing that hits are still a big deal. Again, Mr. Anderson didn't suggest otherwise. He simply writes that they are less of a big deal than in the past. Simple numbers back this up. Top films, books, TV shows and music recordings don't post the kinds of numbers they once did.

What Anderson is not saying is that companies should abandon producing what they hope will be hits. Instead, companies that perhaps don't have the means to produce a hit are finding it lucrative to mine the long tail, offering niche products to consumers who are increasingly able to seek out and purchase these products. No one is foolish enough to suggest that Hollywood studios stop trying to make big, dumb mass market films to separate teens from their cash. They are saying, however, that these same teens, bored with such pap, can make their own movies, upload them to YouTube and find ways to make a decent amount of money from their efforts. The Long Tail is about choice and accessibility. Mainstream entertainment entities are scared, of course, because they are about homogeneity and controlled distribution.


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