Is the ‘long tail’ a genuinely new phenomenon?


photo by benoutram

The Long Tail‘ is the title of a book by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, and of an apparently new phenomenon which many of us following the online worlds have come to understand from Chris’s blog of the same name ‘The Long Tail’. Put succintly, the concept of the long tail refers to the distribution of desirable content, which is today not limited anymore to what can practically made available from the side of the content distribution channels.

I am not going to dwell in depth about how this came about, and give several examples, since the concept is very well analyzed in, for example, the wikipedia article about the Long Tail. Neither I am going to write a proper book review*. Instead what I want to describe briefly is my view that the long tail of satisfied demand is a truely new phenomenon, and not only a purely economical one.

In the current arena of ubiquitous networks there is literally no demand that is not satisfied by a given content, and vice versa, there is no writing or content in general produced, that doesn’t find a readership. I know… as I often write of exotic subjects as the Singularity, or Quantum Computing, online worlds, etc. The possibility of monetizing this relationship is good, but its existence is what is important, and it could not exist before ubiquitous networks.

It is not a coincidence that, having realized that the long tail goes beyond traditional economics, now Chris is writing a new book about ‘Free’!

*I should, and hope that at the end this post can be considered one, since Chris has been kind enough to send me his book for review as it was coming out, and I successfully procrastinated writing about it until now. So if it is, this is a review then it certainly belongs to the long tail!