8.09.2006

Those oppressive niches

Salon writer Farhad Manjoo has one of the more interesting takes on The Long Tail that I've seen thus far, wondering if it is really more targeted at CEOs than Regular Joes. Beyond that, he offers a constructive criticism: Perhaps the Long Tail and the new world of choice that it promises for consumers is not necessarily a good thing.

"I've long wondered, and sometimes worried, about the flip side to the media ubiquity we now enjoy, the paradoxical way in which having access to everything forces you to choose what you're consuming," he writes, adding that he is so "hopped up" about this notion that he's writing his own book about it. Taking his thesis a step too far, however, he seems to assume that, forced to choose, people will pick niches to the total exclusion of more traditional, mainstream fare. People watch Fox News exclusively and get a distorted view of reality, he posits, worrying about selective exposure and confirmation bias "and a host of other psychological phenomena" that take over from there. "The tail may go on and on and on, but does that matter if you're only living in a few niches of it?"

The problem is that he is describing Ted Kaczynski, not your typical consumer. Most of us will remain in the mainstream for the most part, using the increasingly accessible niches of the Long Tail to augment what we find there. You can get your news from a reputable source and supplement it with the oddball news on BoingBoing, or read Entertainment Weekly for your entertainment news and get more specific news about indie rock from Pitchfork. Or, for that matter, you can choose to read Salon.

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