A Critique of Chris Anderson's Long Tail Book.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on July 28, 2006

Like most folks in this space, I’ve read a chunk of The Long Tail and a lot of commentary on it (more commentary than the book to date I’m afraid). The best analysis of the Long Tail argument I’ve seen yet is from Guy Kawasaki. Thanks to Andrew Hargadon’s blog, A Conversation About Technology, Design and Creativity, for pointing out Kawasaki’s comments to me.

My own thoughts of late have run to the difference between niche and spectacle, small and large, private and public. The reason? David Rockwell, of the Rockwell Group, has a book coming out from Phaidon Press with designer Bruce Mau (whose Massive Change exhibition is heading to Chicago and shouldn’t be missed). That book is called Spectacle and is all about our need for group sharing of experiences on a large scale. I’ve seen the proofs and they are remarkable.

So companies can sell niche, long-tail and like that, especially in music and people want it. But people also want the block-buster movie and book, the Burning Man whatever, the baseball/soccer/basketball game, the megachurch and megamall, the theatre and restaurant experience. They want Spectacle as well as Niche. You think?

Reader Comments

csven

July 28, 2006 9:32 PM

People *want* everything. I don't think of the Long Tail as isolated niches that fragment consumers such that they turn their back on typical mass goods, so much as I think it changes ecosystem granularity and thus how the entire thing operates (like going from highly-refined jet fuel to deaerated fuel marine (oily gunk).

I think of a person in the center of a funnel being fed mass consumables who is now able to reach out and gather in more things; to reach out beyond the Short Tail.

Convergence and divergence co-exist because at the center of everything are those people. They haven't changed. The world around them has changed.

Bob Jacobson

July 29, 2006 7:17 PM

The Long Tail is a recent book, but understanding of the phenomenon of aggregated interests goes back to de Toqueville, who saw this diversity as sourch of strength in the young American society.

Specialty publishers (and now websites) also understand the power of unique communities of interest, from the inside out.

What's remarkable is how startled marketers are by the publication of The Long Tail thesis, which merely describes how things are and have been for 150 years on this continent, at least.

Twan

July 30, 2006 5:26 PM

Thanks for your insights! I'm not completely sure...but doesn't the Long Tail also contain the mega/mass-success-products, which are on the left side (the highest top)of the diagram???

By the way, I'm a MA student "Design and Branding Strategy". And I just launched a research blog about Open Business Models of the future, and I would like to invite everyone, including you Bruce, to have a little discussion over there. (I also had some face to face interviews with top experts at some of the biggest brands worldwide. With stunning results!) I'll send my most important findings at the end of the project to everyone who participated actively on the blog.

So participate here:
http://www.webtwobusinessmodels.com

yeti

March 13, 2007 9:00 AM

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