writes "In a working paper titled, 'Is Tom Cruise Threatened? Using Netflix Prize Data to Examine the Long Tail of Electronic Commerce,' Wharton Operations and Information Management professor Serguei Netessine and doctoral student Tom F. Tan pull information from the movie rental company Netflix to explore consumer demand for smash hits and lesser-known films. Netflix made its data available as part of a $1 million prize competition to encourage the development of new ways that will improve its ability to introduce customers to lesser-known titles they might find appealing."
In short, the researchers say that the Long Tail effect
described by Chris Anderson is much less important in the real world than popularly held. Says the article: "The key difference between the opinion of [Anderson's] book and the study by Wharton researchers is how they define 'hits' and 'niches.' In the book, Anderson focuses on the definition of hits in absolute terms such as the top 10 or top 1,000 products, while Netessine and Tan argue that, to take growing product variety into account, one has to define popularity in relative terms, such as the top 1% or top 10% of products, to properly assess the presence or absence of the Long Tail."