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The Long Tail 290

Posted by michael
from the something-for-everyone dept.
Chris Anderson writes "I'm the editor of Wired Magazine and if you'll forgive the autohornblowing, I think you'll be interested in my piece in our latest issue. It argues, with a lot of new data, that the entertainment industry is shifting from an era of hit-driven economics to one of niche-driven economics. Content that was once relegated to the fringe, beneath the threshold of commercial viability, is now increasingly able to find a market in distributed audiences, marking a shift towards the previously-neglected Long Tail of the demand curve."
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The Long Tail

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:26PM (#10444006) Homepage Journal
    Often I'm irritated anyone, including friends, try to interest me in something 'like' what I'm reading, like Amazon Recommendations do. Politely I'll say, thanks, I'll look into it or such and carry on my way. Sometimes I'll actually buy a book on recommendation and toss it on a shelf somewhere for a rainy day or the next in line of the very long line of books I've read. This is effectively Word-Of-Mouth advertising and the most effective of all forms of advertising -- small wonder Amazon uses it, it works and I've grudgingly picked up a few other books due to this and often it is true, I will enjoy the book, after all hundreds or thousands aren't necessarily wrong.

    A notable exception was Red Dwarf, which many people recommended as the next Hitchhikers, as good as Hitchhikers, etc. I found the two books to be like they said, but perhaps not as they intended, I found Red Dwarf to be very derivative and fairly juvenile, as if someone really loved a book so much that they wrote in a similar setting (sci-fi in this case.) I didn't pursue it past the two books I was given, it was a bit of a downer, too as the authors had a small group of characters to play with after killing off the entire human race and finding bugger all in space.

    I've had satellite radio for two years now and can tell honestly say I don't listen to current pop anymore, as I've found swing and standards to be awesome music, it's a bit puzzling how music evolved from that to Britney Spears, et al, but as The Long Tail indicates, we're leaving a top-down dictation of our musical tastes and finding our own way, whether in the past or in the present but other genres than commercial radio wants us to hear (and buy.)

    Years ago I moved to Santa Cruz, which has the Nickelodeon and Del Mar [thenick.com] theaters. I've found about 3/4 of the films I watch are there rather than the big hollywood multiplex (Santa Cruz 9) down the street. I'm more surprised and intrigued by what I see on those screens (which included Touching The Void) than the shiney, candy-like offerings from down south. I can't say I'd have had the same choice in the city I moved from, where no such independent cinemas existed, shy of driving 125 miles to the Maple Theater in Troy, MI.

    • t's a bit puzzling how music evolved from that to Britney Spears

      You are confusing Britney Spears (BS?!) with a musician. She is an entertainer. Nothing more, nothing less.
      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:32PM (#10444079) Homepage Journal
        You are confusing Britney Spears (BS?!) with a musician. She is an entertainer. Nothing more, nothing less.

        You could say the same of Frank Sinatra or Bobby Derren. Why does their music have impact and BS doesn't?

        • by El (94934)
          Perhaps because Frank Sinatra and Bobby Derren didn't remove their clothing in the middle of a performance? BS isn't a singer; she is just an exceptionally highly compensated stripper.
        • by sgant (178166) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:42PM (#10444203) Homepage Journal
          They again, were entertainers...no one really goes and studies the "music" of Sinatra like one would go and study up on Miles Davis or Bob Dylan or Jimmy Page....as in the art of music itself.

          But there's certainly nothing wrong with Britney Spears if you're into her. It's what someone likes...and the "music" is really secondary to BS or others of her ilk. It's the entertainment that's the draw.
          • They again, were entertainers...no one really goes and studies the "music" of Sinatra like one would go and study up on Miles Davis or Bob Dylan or Jimmy Page....as in the art of music itself.

            But there's certainly nothing wrong with Britney Spears if you're into her. It's what someone likes...and the "music" is really secondary to BS or others of her ilk. It's the entertainment that's the draw.

            Right, but on radio, there's little of Britney to see (clothed or otherwise) whereas I'd say Sinatra, Derren, Ho

          • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:05PM (#10444456)
            While that is true, Sinatra may not have been a great musician to be studied by posterity, but at least he was a singer. He entertained with his voice, by singing good tunes in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The reason Britney Spears and the like get derided is that the talent of singing has taken a backseat to glittery semi-nude outfits and titellation of adult men with teenage booty. Don't get me wrong, I am all for some teenage booty now and then (I think I'm getting too old to say that, so don't arrest me please), but I don't want to turn on my radio and hear these chick singer voices that have to be processed to hell and back again to make them sound aesthetically pleasing.


            My metric for this is "would this person be entertaining if you gave them a microphone and a couple of acoustic instruments to back them and sat them down on a stage?" And in the case of nonvocal music, it's a question of whether the music itself is sufficiently enjoyable to stand on its own merit. If neither of these metrics are met, then it may be entertainment but it's not really music. And some pop songs are decently catchy and enjoyable, in *spite of* the singer behind them - you can have a great songwriter or producer behind an otherwise mediocre talent and still come up with something that sounds pretty good. And I can appreciate those songs for what they are, but still dismiss the singer as worthless.

            • THANK YOU. (Score:2, Insightful)

              by The Queen (56621)
              It was such a horrific thing when MTV Unplugged came into vogue, all your favorite bands were shown to be unable to carry a tune outside of a studio. Do they even have that show anymore? Back in my day, if you had talent, and you went out and played shows, your talent would get you recognition. Nowadays, you have to audition your tits instead of your voice. (I think I still have a fair shot, LOL)

              WARNING: Shameless plug!
              Our band uses no vocal sculpting - all but one of our songs was recorded in one take. Al
              • While I agree with you on certain bands...not all bands sounded bad unplugged, and of course it went to the better musicians that really showed their stuff unplugged. Eric Clapton leaps to mind as well as Page/Plant...but for the most part you're right on the money.

                And no, that's not even on anymore. They don't play music on M(usic)TV anymore. Even VH1 is getting out of that.
              • Re:THANK YOU. (Score:4, Interesting)

                by clifyt (11768) <sonikmatter@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:26PM (#10444752) Homepage
                "WARNING: Shameless plug!
                Our band uses no vocal sculpting - all but one of our songs was recorded in one take. All natural baby!"

                I've never understood why this is such a good thing.

                Quite a few of us out there have talents outside of playing a specific instrument or otherwise, and don't want someone else to ruin it.

                For instance, I'm a *HORRIBLE* guitarist, but due to my knowledge of sampling and editing techniques, I actually have a few of my friends that are guitarists convinced that I am a pretty decent player -- even after I tell them its all digital.

                In the past, I've tried to bring folks in to play guitar for me, but its always been their personality and they couldn't take direction -- they felt that as an 'artist' they should be able to play what they wanted. Thats fine and dandy, but give me my money back if you want to be an artist -- I hired you to be a technician.

                So all in all, who the fuck cares if a song was recorded in one take or not. I don't. I want to hear music, not technique. As a songwritter first, I concentrate on that aspect of it. If it means hiring a girl to come in and sing her ass off, and then editting the fuck out of it to where it sounds nothing like her -- and is actually in tune to boot -- why the fuck should that matter to the listener either.

                Are you gettin something more authentic because the band played everything in one take? No. On stage, it might matter (and I can hold my own on the keys -- so I'm not useless :-), but on the recorded album, who the fuck cares. A good song that sticks in my head is all that matters...
                • Well, it comes down to how "raw" the song is. It's rock & roll...the mistakes, the mishaps in the recording live of a song actually go INTO the song too.

                  You sound more like a producer/tech...which is great, don't get me wrong...I mean you make yourself (in this forum) seem like that. But next time, just on a lark, take your admitted "horrible" guitar skills and play it anyway on a track. The history of rock is littered with "horrible" guitarists that actually elevate the art! It's one of those things t
          • But there's certainly nothing wrong with Britney Spears if you're into her.

            No, it's something wrong with you, then.
          • They again, were entertainers...no one really goes and studies the "music" of Sinatra like one would go and study up on Miles Davis..

            I think you're drawing a distinction that isn't there. It's not musicality vs. entertainment. It's all entertaining. It's not hard to find it as entertaining to watch someone do something skillful (Jimmy Page) as it is to watch someone who's ideas are the entertainment (Dylan was a lousy singer and a pretty bad musician).

            Music as an art form can be appreciated from differ

        • One of my favorite Trivial Persuit questions went about like this:

          How many of the singers on Frank Sinatra's duets collection recorded in the studio with him?
          Answer: None.

          Sinatra's music was fairly manufactured. I think you'll often confuse him with the musicians who wrote his music.

          Who is Bobby Derren?
    • by Enry (630) <`enry' `at' `wayga.net'> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:35PM (#10444121) Journal
      I didn't pursue it past the two books I was given, it was a bit of a downer, too as the authors had a small group of characters to play with after killing off the entire human race and finding bugger all in space.

      Uhm. You know there were 8 TV series (seasons) of Red Dwarf done by the BBC, along with a movie that's in production, right? The two books only cover a part of the first season. The first 4 series are on DVD now, so go hit your local library or DVD rental store and check it out.
      • It's pretty much the same the other way round for books based on a film or TV series. My take on it is that the arts don't often translate well across media.

  • by imr (106517) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:27PM (#10444008)
    you'll forgive the autohornblowing
    On the contrary, i'm quite impressed by your agility, even jealous.
  • by the_rev_matt (239420) <slashbot.revmatt@com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:28PM (#10444018) Homepage
    The long tail resonates with me in a way that makes me think this is the future of entertainment. And it should be. If you want to see the salvation of the music industry, it is not DRM or 'the next big thing'. It's Wilco. It's Radiohead. It's the Roots. It's thousands of artists you've never heard of and likely never will.

    Back in college I was a record collector. I would spend hours upon hours trolling every used record store in the Bay Area looking for obscure items on my 'must have' list. Whenever I visited a new city, I would always try to hit some used stores, regardless of the weather or the character of the neighborhoods they may be located in. I also spent nearly as much time in used book stores looking for anything that struck me as interesting at the time. Over the course of the years and several cross country moves I've shed most of the books and all of the vinyl. My cd collection has plummeted from several thousand down to a few hundred. And yet I now have access to more literature and music than ever.

    I've been using iTunes for over a year now, and I've bought more music in the past 6 months through iTunes than in the entire 3 years prior to the release of iTunes. I don't spend much time listening to whatever is on the top 40 charts. Most of the artists I like live in the long tail. They are often even names you might know, but they are not chart toppers. They won't go platinum, but they'll still make money. I worked at a used CD store in Colorado for a while, and the owner there understood the long tail even though he didn't understand it as such. When people were selling us CDs he would just look at the titles and be able to tell you what it was worth without even looking it up on the computer. Here's a tip for you: you can always get top dollar for a Frank Zappa CD.

    Already posted on my blog, but what the hell.
    • by Neil Blender (555885) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:32PM (#10444077)
      I would spend hours upon hours trolling every used record store in the Bay Area

      How? Were you slipping goatse printouts in the liners?
    • I've been using iTunes for over a year now, and I've bought more music in the past 6 months through iTunes than in the entire 3 years prior to the release of iTunes.

      When the iTMS came out, I bought a whole lot of back-catalog stuff that I'd always wanted, and only ever saw on late-night TV ads like "Time-Life Records brings you three songs you want, and 96 others that you don't, for six easy payments" yadda yadda yadds.

      First tune I bought: "Stagger Lee", by Lloyd Price. Second one: "Whiter Shade of Pa
      • First tune I bought: "Stagger Lee", by Lloyd Price. Second one: "Whiter Shade of Pale", by Procul Harem. I'd never seen either of them in a record store.

        According to a story appearing in the St. Louis, Missouri Globe-Democrat in 1895:

        William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had be

    • Huh, your long tail is bands I've seen on TV like Wilco and Radiohead, and bands you can find on iTMS?

      Not meaning to be all indie or anything, but if I were to start listing long tail bands I'd start with Trans Am, Hem, and Negativland and start working my way out towards stuff like Ritchie Hawtin (Plastikman), Shellac, and Rondellus.

      I've not been particularly lucky finding any of that on iTMS, which is why I don't use it.
  • by GuyFawkes (729054) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:30PM (#10444050) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to use s;ashdot to promote / advertise my magazine for free too....

    this weeks feature story is "Broadband is faster than modem dial up"
    • I don't mind the editor of wired submitting a story. He was certainly very upfront about it and as far as I know hasn't submitted a story like this before.

      Of course his objective in doing so is to generate page hits but if he does provide us with an intesting article and doesn't make a habit of it unlike some other submitters I don't really mind.

      • He could have copy'n'pasted other news sites' content to his own blog, added some banner ads to make money, and then sucked michael and CmdrTaco off so they would post anything he submits as "news" [slashdot.org].

        Really, Roland needs to become an editor, or at least be given his own category. He can astroturf for cash all he wants then, and we'll be able to ignore his stories.

  • by Tranzor Z (661878) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:30PM (#10444056)
    Can you switch my Wired Magazine subscription to a slashdot subscription, so I can at least read the online articles before everyone else?
  • Primer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by greg_barton (5551) *
    Haven't read the article yet (gotta get that karma, baby!) but I think the movie Primer [primermovie.com] is a great example of a niche movie. (And the niche is us geeks.) It's a hard movie to follow and is definately geared towards smart folks, so the audience is bound to be small, but it will definately generate a profit. Dig a bit and you'll see why...

    Oh yeah, it's being released in Dallas and New York on Friday. More cities to follow. :)
    • Re:Primer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ackthpt (218170) *
      Haven't read the article yet (gotta get that karma, baby!) but I think the movie Primer is a great example of a niche movie.

      If it's a niche movie, it'll probably be on the local indie screen soon.

      I hope it's better than some of the stuff I've heard about being good, which wasn't, i.e. Young Einstein and Blair Witch.

      Films I did love watching were:

      Triplets of Bellville

      Run Lola Run

      Monsoon Wedding

      Shaolin Soccer

      Touching the Void

      Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

      All of which were at the local indie theater

      • I hope it's better than some of the stuff I've heard about being good, which wasn't, i.e. Young Einstein and Blair Witch.


        Who told you Young Einstein was good?

        • I hope it's better than some of the stuff I've heard about being good, which wasn't, i.e. Young Einstein and Blair Witch.
          Who told you Young Einstein was good?
          I think perhaps he misremembered what someone told him. It must have been Young Frankenstein that was recommended as good. Yahoo Serious fucking sucks.
    • As far as that goes, any anime movie or series that now gets airtime on G4 is a good example of fringe TV getting facetime in our CABLE (Channels Abound But Little Entertainment) world. I like anime, or at least some of it (see my blog), but it's definitely not mainstream yet.
  • by ZenBased (593709) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:34PM (#10444111) Homepage
    but it would have been a lot more interesting if the author had provided us with some background information. He now makes a lot of statements, but where did he get all this information from?? the idea of the paper is nice though, now it is time to write something a bit more scientific about the subject?
  • For every page of insightful content thou shall have 7-8 pages of advertising thinly disguised as "tech updates" or "cutting edge information"!

    • For every page of insightful content thou shall have 7-8 pages of advertising thinly disguised as "tech updates" or "cutting edge information"!

      hmmm... that experience sounds familiar... ...where have i experienced that before???... hmmm.......
  • by Fluidic Binary (554336) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:36PM (#10444132) Homepage
    It sounds great and I hope it is all true, but how can 'the tail' possibly pay for projects that cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars? Many movie, music, game etc depend on the hits to bring in cash to pay for the misses.

    I guess we will see how things turn out. I'm not saying the article is wrong, I'm just saying 'the business' will have to change.
    • by kfg (145172)
      I'm just saying 'the business' will have to change.

      Indeed. Just bear in mind that many of those misses only exist because the people who had millions felt pressure to push out some sort of product, rather than dedication to an idea.

      Most movies, games and even music are manufactured in the same manner that thingamabobs are manufactured, simply because the machinery exists and needs to be fed.

      Trimming the pyrite doesn't at all imply a proportional trimming of the gold. They come from different mines.

      KFG
    • how can 'the tail' possibly pay for projects that cost hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars?

      In 2 ways:
      1) It is now easier and cheaper to reach your audience across the globe. In the past, it might not have been profitable to create a $1M movie about, say, gay cowboys eating pudding (ref. Southpark) and sell it to the US niche market. These days however it's not that much harder to reach the same niche market on other continents. In other words, the 'tail' has grown considerably fatter wit

  • With due respect... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#10444169)
    ...I think this is confusing somewhat random picking up of the novel and different being in vogue, with there being a widening of the focus.

    There's only 20 spots on the best seller list. There are generally more than 20 good books that have come out recently. Quite a lot of really ambitious, deserving stuff is out there, that gets ignored in favor of "what everyone else is reading." You see similar trends in music, movies, etc.

    Sure, there are a few critics who went down the road less traveled, found something new, and held it up and said "hey! this is pretty good." And people listened. But has that really created a wider market?

    Sure Into Thin Air did well. And now that author's other book is doing well. Great. So, name me one author (or one book you've read) on Skydiving. Mountain biking. White water rafting. You say "well, there aren't any." My point is "how would you know?"

    The net here, is that we've still got popularity that's driven by what's getting recommended as "the new hot thing." And, like lemmings, people flock to it. The mainstream has fairly limited bandwidth.

    If nothing else, this is proof that there are a lot of reasonably well-written books out there, that a lot of people might enjoy, and picking one at random and giving it the star treatment can make it a success.

    My favorite experiment on this--Stephen King (in his preface to "the Bachman Books," a collection of works he pubslihed under the alias "Richard Bachman." These were published without fanfare, under a name no one knew. About as well written as any of his other books, just less well known. They didn't do poorly per se--they did all right, but nothing like his "Stephen King" books. And, once he was unmasked and people knew he had written them, all of a sudden they turned into MUCH bigger sellers....

    It's still a question of marketing hype.
  • Interesting article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason1729 (561790) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#10444171)
    I subscribe to Wired and I read the article a few days ago when I got the magazine.

    I want the article to be right, but it seems more like a hope than any evidence. Amazon, Netflix, etc are selling/renting a lot of material that traditional stores don't stock, but it doesn't seem like it's indicating any great shift.

    Amazon was most dramatic as far as how far much of their sales are of items not stocked at normal book stores. But that just makes sense; if I can buy the book at a brick and morter store I will because then I get a chance to see it, read a bit of it and be sure I like it. Once I've done all that, I don't want to wait a few days to get it from amazon just to save a few percent, I want it right away, so I'll buy it at the store. If I can't find the book in normal stores, then I'll look at amazon.
    • I want the article to be right, but it seems more like a hope than any evidence. Amazon, Netflix, etc are selling/renting a lot of material that traditional stores don't stock, but it doesn't seem like it's indicating any great shift.

      We are seeing this happen with Netflix for one simple reason. Longterm Netflix users don't get the more popular titles after a while. They are then given a title that is further and further down the list which ends up being something that is out of the "top 3,000". It's gr
      • Re Netflix: I've never had trouble getting new releases. It's been covered and slashdot before. Your problem happens to some people, but not all people.
        • To elaborate, it seems that Netflix labels new releases as "short wait" to encourage people to move up other movies in the queue. But if the "short wait" movie is #1, it will get to you. This was true for me back when I was watching 10 movies a month and is true for me now at about 4-5 movies per month. Doesn't seem to apply to Long Wait or Very Long Wait, though.
    • I want the article to be right, but it seems more like a hope than any evidence.
      That's odd ... are you sure you were reading the right Wired magazine?
    • I subscribe to Wired

      It's ok, Jason- we all make mistakes, but at least you've come out and admitted you have a problem, and that's the first step.

      Who's next?

    • If you lived 1.5 hours away from the nearest brick and mortar book store, would your opinion be the same?
  • If this is true, the Canadian movie business would finally find it's own. Up to now, the movies that are produced in canada simply have not received the exposure that they deserve. Many of the worlds best directors, writers and editors are canadian but unfortunately most of them now work in CA doing what they don't want to.

    Hmmm Maybe it's time to get the Panasonic 24 fps DV cam :]
    • I wish that were true, but the sad fact is that Canadian movies simply suck. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Red Green and Corner Gas (oh wait, they're not movies ... oh well). Perhaps if Canadian film makers concentrated on making movies that people actaully wanted to see, instead of politically correct CBC-eske crap, they would be able to turn a profit instead of relying on government handouts.

      The entire concept of 'Canadian' movie/music/programming-of-any-type is really outdated. If a singer
  • by mekkab (133181) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:41PM (#10444190) Homepage Journal
    Seeing as how the web is sicophantic and I already read this when linked from BoingBoing [boingboing.net], I actually have RTFA.

    And I don't like the style- it comes off as scientific (Ohhh! It even has GRAPHS! That must be science!) but really is just a bunch of gross generalizations. This kind of crap is what keeps me away from wired.

    Though I do appreciate the mention of MP3.com as a long-tail only failure, there are significant issues with respect to business plan specifics that are completely glossed over yet are central to the success Anderson talks about. If Touching the Void weren't reprinted with a vengence, then the resurge wouldn't even exist.

    Also, lets talk about the major underpining of Netflix that allows it to "over throw the tyrrany of space"- the US postal system. If Netflix couldn't send the disks cheap enough, fast enough, or had more broken DVDs than they do, they would be out of business.

    In short, this whole article reminds me of a DotCom pitch- full of colorful and modern-styled graphics, long on exposition, but with holes.

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:42PM (#10444202)
    This trend is also a generational phenomenon. In researching the buying habits of current teenagers for a client, I was shocked to find that the majority would be LESS likely to buy a product that was used by their favorite star ( see national youth survey on brand loyalty [buzzmg.com]). Nor were the surveyed youth very prone to peer pressure. The results pointed to a high degree of individualism amongst this group.

    If people stop buying what the stars are wearing/using and don't respond to peer pressure, then buyers will fragment and the long tail will rise in importance.
    • by horza (87255) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:11PM (#10444525) Homepage
      If people stop buying what the stars are wearing/using and don't respond to peer pressure, then buyers will fragment and the long tail will rise in importance.

      Won't happen here in France. When I walk through the streets around 1/2 people are wearing "Von Dutch" t-shirts. I'm seriously considering paying President Chirac or Koffi Annan to wear one in public, in the hope that they will then be considered uncool and consigned to the bin.

      Phillip.
    • Wellll... I mean, from the link, it seems that the kids were asked, not subtly observed. Sometimes there is a serious disparity between what someone says and what someone does.

      If it's become cool to say 'I don't do what other people do' (not to mention containing almost lethal levels of irony), kids might say that. And then go out and buy what their favorite star wears anyway. Maybe they don't think that's what they're doing, I'm sure there's all sorts of rationalizations in their head. But I'd like to see
  • Get as much tail as you can!
  • by ARRRLovin (807926) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:46PM (#10444237)
    Unlike "hard goods", digital products have greater agility when it comes to gauging demand. You don't have to wait for sales figures to come back from stores after end-of-day. You don't have to worry about replenishment after you sell out of a product. There's really no overhead incurred with carrying a digital product, other than securing licensing and providing a delivery mechanism. This makes for a great depth of product and, depending on the ease of use for the customer, will keep a customer coming back if they know they can find exactly what their looking for.
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:46PM (#10444238)
    At long last I can indulge my cravings for video of dwarf amputee line dancing.
  • by scovetta (632629) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:46PM (#10444241) Homepage
    I must say, everyone who's been telling me to RTFA has been giving good advise. If you're reading this, but you haven't RTFA, you should RTFA now. I agree with the assessment that the traditional 80/20 rule is no longer in effect for some entertainment markets (or at least, not as much as the Powers That Be would make it seem). I've purchased CDs from Norway and Germany that weren't available in the US. I'm always disappointed by Blockbuster's "Top 40"-esque approach to stocking movies. I'm glad to see that it's not just me. Mike
  • The article basically says that the internet and the information provided in it will allows services and products that are only of interest to a few people to be profitable, by marketing them globally. Well duh. As always, the porn industry is the leader in technology and market trends. Ten years ago sites popped up that provided pictures of one-armed women in golf cleats doing obscene things with cottage cheese. There were forty people who would pay to see that, just enough to make it profitable if you
  • by Alomex (148003) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:47PM (#10444258) Homepage
    I'm old enough to remember when Wired was relevant. Then it decided to dedicate all of its covers to managers rather than technologies, and focus on their human side (short story: they are all dweebs), rather than on the technical aspect of their contributions, which is why they became famous/wealthy in the first place.

    Thus Wired became the "Cosmopolitan" of the internet revolution, with the sole difference that the faces on the cover are ugly.

    I quickly droped my subscription and none of my tech friends read it either. In fact I can't recall when was the last time I saw an issue of the magazine.

  • I thought (Score:5, Funny)

    by smileyy (11535) <smileyy@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:47PM (#10444261)
    I thought Wired was just a write-off vehicle for some company that had millions of gallons of fluorescent and metallic ink on their hands. You mean there's words in that magazine?
    • oh god, i so agree with that...

      a former prof of mine was being interviewed by wired and they wanted to take his pic. but....they wanted to put someone else's head on his shoulders. (had to do with his book)

      at any rate, i thought they rasterbated over all their photos because they were too cheap to hire good photographers. turns out they do hire decent photographers but rasterbate over their images anyway.
    • Wired is the magazine that geeks look at on the shelf to find out what non-geeks read to find out what geeks think, and in doing so they can try and design world-changing software that the non-geeks want inspired by what the non-geeks think the geeks are doing. Makes sense?

      Phillip.
  • by BRock97 (17460) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:48PM (#10444262) Homepage
    The entertainment is a unique beast in that it permiates almost every part of our lives. From the morning news to the cereal we eat to the drive to and from work, people will find they are being bombarded by the entertainment industry. It didn't used to be that way, but has come on really strong in recent years. Group that with the number of movies that Hollywood produces each year, and you will find entertainment sensory overload?

    "So what?" you might ask. Well, the problem here is that there appears to be only so many formulas that main stream Hollywood can produce. So, all that sensory overload is starting to become the same thing over and over again. How many firefighter movies do we need? Obviously one more since Ladder 49 found its way in theatres. And, if you have seen it, you will find (besides the way it ends) that it lacks originality in almost every facet of its existence. Same thing with Shark Tale. Get down to it, its just a gangster movie with a kids front put on it. I am not the only one who has noticed this, either. Most in my group feel that most every movie formula has been done to death by the movie industries. Look at the movie Taxi coming out soon. Go and rent the likes of National Security or Lethal Weapon and you will see basically the same formula.

    This is where the indie industry is coming to the rescue with their niche titles. Its why your Napolean Dynamites are doing so well while main stream stuff is struggling to stay in theatres for any length of time. Its why Donnie Darko has such an underground following where as Armegeddon is considered loud crap by many.

    This, of course, extends down to the rental businees. People are hungry for entertainment and these niche titles fit that bill to a tee. I, for one, am glad we have a Netflix that is able to provide the alternatives to the Grade A blockbuster crap from mainstream studios. Otherwise, I think I would have given up on the movie industry a long time ago.
    • This is where the indie industry is coming to the rescue with their niche titles. Its why your Napolean Dynamites are doing so well while main stream stuff is struggling to stay in theatres for any length of time. Its why Donnie Darko has such an underground following where as Armegeddon is considered loud crap by many.

      Could it also be that while Bay/Bruckheimer are off doing the minimum necessary to ensure a blockbuster according to their marketing studies and formulae, the person making a movie like M
    • Some people might worry that Blockbuster can take over and do the same thing Netflix has done, by offering a subscription that you can use to get movies from a local store.

      But Blockbuster can only carry so many movies, and hardly any are the ones I want to see. I have 200+ movies in the queue and think Netflix will be around for quite some time, because they embrace diversity wholeheartedly and I can wait a day or two for some really obscure movie in the mail.
    • The music industry would probably respond to this "Well, if we make off-the-wall stuff, no-one comes to see it. We make movies that we think people will pay money to see."

      And to some extent, that's a fair point. Of course, that's assuming that they promote the less formulaic stuff as hard, which I'm not sure they do. But the unusual films tend to get pigeonholed as 'art house' or whatever, and don't get as popular. Look at something fascinating and original like Being John Malkovich, or Cube, or even

    • I don't know. I see what you're saying, but to be this pissed off at it means you've thought about the problem and have done nothing to fix it.

      I try to watch movies that I like. I rarely go to theaters because it's a waste of money. I rarely by CDs because as an entire album they're a waste of money. I try to enjoy the television shows, music, and movies that interest me.

      Who cares if half of my generation is being brainwashed by MTV or Miramax? That's their problem, not mine to worry about.

      I've alwa
  • Self-referential (Score:2, Informative)

    by russsell (185151)

    It's a fringe-content article on Slahdot about pushing fringe content to distributed audiences through alternative channels! I was surprised that it didn't use itself as an example!

    For a far better analysis of the issues, see "The Perils of the Imitation Age" by Eric Bonabeau in the Harvard Business Review June 2004.

  • by Retrospecter (807978) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:54PM (#10444334)
    I'm happy to see this topic addressed, and the author clearly makes a good point. I hope the suits in the leather chairs are starting to understand this. Most of us were already aware of this apparent shift in purchasing patterns.

    However, the article did not need to be as long as it was. The same point was repeated over and over, and although there's nothing wrong with presenting evidence, I thought, "Ok, I get it." The article also had that high-school-position-paper feel to it. I would have preferred to see more facts and a little less dissertation.

  • by KidHash (766864)
    Whilst the concept is interesting (more choice, more sales), what the article doesn't take into account, is that for many people, they'll only spend a limited amount per month/week/year/whatever on films or music. I live in a small city, with a smallish HMV. I know that if I lived in a much larger city, with a record store with more choice, I wouldn't spend more money on records - I'd spend the same - that's all I can afford. I might choose different records, but the total spent wouldn't change. It may well
  • Content that was once relegated to the fringe, beneath the threshold of commercial viability, is now increasingly able to find a market in distributed audiences, marking a shift towards the previously-neglected Long Tail of the demand curve.

    Unless you are the part of the fringe that wants the original unedited Star Wars trilogy released on DVD. In which case you are SOL.
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:00PM (#10444391) Homepage Journal
    I've been using my own under distributed movies list [laboratory...states.com] to decide what movies to see.

    Basically I just look at the weekly box office for each movie divided by the number of screens squared and that tells me how much acceleration the market is placing on the distribution channels for the movies.

    It works pretty well. Playing the Hollywood Stock Exchange [looksmart.com] with this metric does a pretty good job of detecting bargains.

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:03PM (#10444432)
    I started a company that serves a relatively niche market. We make devices for computer musicians. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible -- the startup costs for creating relatively short run hardware at affordable prices were astronomical.

    With today's technology, it is possible to profitably release a product that looks like it came from a "big player" in the industry, but is manufactured in batches of a few hundred, as orders permit. This gives us tremendous flexibility to create and customize new products based upon a central core.

    My point? Its not just music and publishing that are being morphed by technology. Its also software -- think of all the shareware and open source projects that have dramatically changed the landscape of the software industry.

  • Makes sense. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rkischuk (463111) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:03PM (#10444435)
    Look at the television market. You went from 3 major networks (Fox) to 4 major networks and several minor networks (UPN, WB, PAX) on broadcast, and shows like The Simpsons, Married With Children, 7th Heaven, and Buffy found a place because there wasn't as much pressure to be the huge hit that's needed to maintain ratings at a blockbuster network.

    Cable comes along and adds a few more channels, at a lower distribution cost. Some local unaffiliated stations become "superstations" (TBS, USA I think, WGN), and a few niche players develop (most notably MTV, VH1, CMT, and eventually TLC, Discovery, etc). But remember the old cable boxes? They had a cap of about 36 channels, so there was no room for diversification, only replacement of one interest with another.

    Cable began to broaden as TV sets came cable-ready, adding broader interests again, but the floodgates have really opened with the advent of digital cable and satellite. Now, the incremental distribution cost of a channel is marginal. Channels number in the hundreds, and more unusual interests can now be explored - think Discovery Health, VH1 Classic, TechTV, Game Show Network, etc. The distributers are still limited, but those limitations continue to fall as cable providers find ways to squeeze more bandwidth out of their lines and satellite adds capacity in the sky through new satellites and better (or just more) compression. The new limits are becoming simply the ability of the channel to remain profitable, and provide their channel at a price the dish and cable services find profitable as well. Content is getting cheaper as media has become near omnipresent. We have channels on local Atlanta cable - Falconsvision and Comcast Sports South. Both capitalize almost entirely on previously recorded and produced content, repackaged. By aggregating existing content, they're able to provide something that distinguishes them from the satellite providers, and is easily a profitable endeavor.

    I see this trend stalling for a while as increased capacity is used for distribution of the same content in higher resolution (HD). This pause may be quite drawn out, depending on when the consumer decides that the image is "good enough". (There is little demand, for example, for higher resolution digital audio. I don't think 1080i is the end of the upgrade cycle for video.) Alternately, a new distribution channel (easy to use internet-based channel surfing) may accelerate this growth, but this seems unlikely for quite some time - with ~15 Megabit/s plus bandwidth requirements for compressed HDTV, it will be a while before the average home is able to receive content at a resolution that can compare to current TV technology. More hindering is the lack of a broadcast mechanism for the internet (one source, unlimited listeners within a certain range). A PC with gigabit ethernet would only allow 66 HD concurrent viewers, provided the hardware could keep up. This tech needs to cheaply scale to hundreds of thousands to become practical.

  • Agree with the idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psychochild (64124) <psychochildNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:08PM (#10444496) Homepage
    I also think this was one of the biggest problems with the dot-com boom. Everyone was falling over themselves to make everything mass-market in order to gain the most "eyeballs" and sell more ad revenue. It's been shown that people prefer more "niche" content aimed at their interests. It's interesting to note that you can often sell more expensive advertising since you are delivering a targeted audience instead of a wide, undefined audience.

    I've been doing this in my professional life, too. I'm a developer of Meridian 59 [meridian59.com], a classic online RPG. The game focuses a lot on player vs. player (PvP) combat, with the advantage of having a long time to develop a very balanced system. We've targeted the game to the niche that is interested in this type of game, and we make enough money to get by.

    I think we'll see another large, sustainable boom once people realize that servicing a niche can be very profitable.

    Have fun,
  • by gihan_ripper (785510) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:14PM (#10444567) Homepage

    It seems as though Mr Anderson is describing two different effects here, though they both spring from one root cause: the advent of large Internet-based stores with low overheads which have an effectively national (or even global) market.

    On the one hand, there is the 'long tail' of the curve, that is, the sale of many different items, each of which sells in low volume. These are the niche products which most people will never have heard of.

    On the other hand, he describes the impact the new economy has had on bringing niche products into the mainstream, making them big hits.

    His first example (the success of the book Touching the Void) is really of the second type. It's not an example of the long tail at all, but an instance where the new economy has thrust an obsure book into the mainstream. This is really not essentially different to the very familiar case in which an artist, scientist, etc. is only appreciated long after their original work is produced --- only after some comfortable context has been provided in which to situate the work.

  • As a geek, I don't sit around in meetings trying to figure out ways to draw a bigger audience. I don't own any theaters and I likely never will. Also, the article describes the obvious trend that's occuring everywhere in all the things and services available lately, i.e. more choices and increased customizability. So all I get from the article is the fact that I can expect more independent films and more variety in the future, which I kind of already do.

    BTM
  • by alizard (107678) <alizard@ecis.cCOBOLom minus language> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:37PM (#10444870) Homepage
    I've said for years that record companies need to rebuild their business model so they can service and profit from lots of artists that can sell 10K units in a good year.The problem is solvable. Hint: their problem is based on physical CD distribution. What if all new record sales at record stores were burned on demand except for a small minority of megahits?

    There is no American teen sound and hasn't been for years, and the music business model hasn't really changed since the days of American Bandstand. A musician who might do perfectly well on his own selling 10K records a year at $5/profit per record isn't helped by the industry to sell 20K or 50K, he's dumped by the label and out of the nusic business.

    Remember heavy metal? It's fragmented into a number of subgenres as different as chalk and cheese.

    I'm sure this is going on in lots of markets that I'm not even remotely familiar with.

    How can gigantic entertainment monoliths get their ears into enough sub-markets to find the most profitable players? Well, automated analysis of P2P network downloads is one possibility, but they're paying for it while they are trying to make them illegal.

    This is the content industry's ultimate long-tern problem, and if they don't solve it, no amount of DRM and anti-technology legislation can save them.

  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate&hotmail,com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:42PM (#10444928) Homepage Journal
    But what he failed to see is that while new distribution channels are opening up which allow profits to be made in the "tail", as he puts it, there is a parallel phenomena surrounding the creation of media. The same laws surrounding big business' approach to 'hits' in distribution--that scarce distribution channels require them to focus on a few titles which have a potential for big profits--apply to the creation of the media in the first place. No film or record company is going to produce and market a title with the potential to only hit a small niche market, even if it will find that market spot on with the likes of iTunes or Netflix. At least, no media company that operates under a traditional model.

    He states "That leaves the costs of finding, making, and marketing music. Keep them as they are, to ensure that the people on the creative and label side of the business make as much as they currently do.". But just as new technology is opening up new avanues for media distribution, it's giving us completely new ways to produce and market that media. A band can now cut an album and put it online using inexpensive equipment. A good band can now get promoted online through word of mouth. No need for expensive A&R men, no need for payola on the radio, no need for any of the services traditionally provided by the record companies. As technology gets better, the film industry is being changed too. A special effect CGI that cost millions to do just 15 years ago can now be accomplished on a desktop computer.

    The point is, just as changes in technology are changing the economics of distribution, they are changing the economics of media manufacture and promotion. This is a great thing.
  • by pileated (53605) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:48PM (#10444985)
    before seeing this Personal Horn Tooting. I think the article does articulate a different business model that many people may just refuse to see. I believe that it was Tim O'Reilly who wrote an article saying that it was the Googles, Amazons etc. that were really creating the new killer software, not Sun or MS, and that part of the reason was that they gave more control to users. This theme is echoed in the book We The Media.

    I've lived through 30+ years of overhyped predictions about the future, starting way back when with The Greening of America. But there's a big difference between a book/essay that's trying to shape the future by exhorting its readers to make the future that way and one that is slightly more objective and says that it thinks things are developing in such a way as to come to this predicted future. I mention all this just to say "I hope that I won't be fooled again."

    And that I think what these various authors say is most likely true: there seems to be an inevitable democritization of media/commerce that allows for the Long Tail, whether it be in newspapers, bookstores, blogging, music stores or whatever. All seem to have the common thread of better too much than too little, better too all-inclusive than too exclusive. From what I've seen they are right and we might, I hope, all gain from it.

    I just wish I could figure out how to make a good living from it.:-)

  • Why I like Wired (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ninjagin (631183) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @05:07PM (#10445176)
    Okay, I'm probably surrendering a couple of my geek points by saying it, but I like my Wired.

    Reasons:

    • I work on and around computer technology all day long. Sometimes its nice to read something that doesn't tax my brain anymore than I want it to.
    • I like Bruce Sterling.
    • Japanese Schoolgirl Watch -- nuf said
    • I can skip the ads if I want to. Ads, fwiw, can also be found in my daily newspaper. I am able to look past ads.
    • the subscription cost is dirt cheap.
    • nice paper texture, layout, color and page design. It's just pleasing to look at.
    • If I find the subject of an article interesting, I can look to other sources for more information. Wired never pretends to be an authoritative publication.
    • I really enjoy the fetish section, even if I'm not looking for the products they list there. The very first time I ever saw a roomba was in Wired, years ago.
    • The Schwartzenegger article was really good.
    • They don't take themselves too seriously.
    • I don't agree with every editorial I find there.
    • Wired articles often get mentioned on slashdot, where I can watch people bang the topics aruond a ittle.

    Is there some stuff that I'd like to see? Sure. I wish the articles were longer, and that there were more of them. I wish that the number of graphics-intensive, full-page 2-paragrpah articles was a little smaller. Apart from that, I wouldn't change anything.

    As far as the tail goes, we have more choices because our larger retailers (online and otherwise) are able to make so many more diverse choices in terms of what they want to (and can) sell. The supermarket is a good example. As years went by and people learned more about regional cuisine, and fresh/organic vegetables, retailers became pressured to supply these items because they were losing business to these little niche shops and mom&pop veggie-fruit stands. When organic veggies first showed up in my town (15 years ago), you just didn't have enough of them being grown to allow a major grocery to buy the stuff. As production of organics rose in volume, they became part of the ordinary offering. In dense urban areas (London, Paris, NYC), the range of choices was always wide and varied because of the diversity of the population was similarly wide and varied. I see the diversity of today's channels of information (cable, the net, books, papers, magazines) as spreading demand out along the tail. The choices were always there, it's just that people are more likely to know about them, and getting exactly what one wants is easier in the age of fedex.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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