Yesterday, Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal weighed in on behalf of chunky marketing.
Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson’s hot, new best seller, "The Long Tail," is causing a sensation with its eye-opening claims about the way the Web is rewriting the rules of commerce. But I’ve looked at some of the same data, and some more of my own, and I don’t think things are changing as much as he does.
Gomes complains that Anderson’s vaunted 98 Percent Rule is without foundation, that the Ecast data no longer makes the point Anderson says it does, and that the the "misses outsell hits" notion will not actually apply at Netflix and Amazon at least for another decade.
Gomes says that 2.7% of Amazon’s titles produce 75% of the revenues, at Ecast 10% of the songs produce 90% of the streams, and at Rhpsody 10% of the songs produce 86% of the streams.
[W]hile every singer-songwriter dreams from his bedroom of making a living off iTunes, few actually do, mostly because so many others have the very same idea. And to the extent that Apple is making money off iTunes, thanks go to Nelly Furtado and other hitmakers. Indeed, you can make the case that the Internet is amplifying the role of hits, even in relation to misses, not diminishing them.
Gomes, Lee. 2006. It may be a long time before the Long Tail is wagging the web. Wall Street Journal. July 26, 2006. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. More on chunky marketing. This blog sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics. July 19, 2006. here.
Thanks to Ennis of SepiaMutiny for the head’s up.
Chris Anderson responded here:
“I’m actually quite an admirer of Gomes’ work and he certainly did do a lot of research for this piece. But he started off with the wrong end of the stick (looking at the market in percentage terms, which doesn’t work because the definition of “head” keeps changing) and sadly wouldn’t let it go.”
You’re giving your readers only half the story here. Nicholas Carr over at his blog has been following this and exchanged emails with Gomes. You linked to Anderson’s reply but didn’t digest it– and you’re one of the people with the training and perspective who could be doing this. I’m honestly on the fence, having difficulty judging among the Gomes/Carr/Anderson voices… the truth, as always, is probably in the middle. I’m eager to read both Chris’ book (read the original article a while back) and Benkler’s “Wealth of Networks” to see where this is going. If I were backed into a corner, I’d say that The Long Tail is a creditable phenomenon, but that it’s not going to be a real powerhouse economically for a while, if ever. With INEXPENSIVE media, like websites and digital downloads, the tail will come into play more than with expensive media. And, 10 or 20 years from now when mass media has lost still more fat, I’ll be curious to see how things have changed. We still have far too many people who grew up with mass culture and have M*A*S*H* and The Love Boat and Cheers and other such water cooler TV in their brains as common references for what DeSousa calls “paradigm scenarios” to have changed. Did you catch the Hollywood news that ICM is buying BWCS? The big media conglomerate agency is absorbing the boutique literary agency. At a moment when the internetintelligentsia keeps crying that the mass culture king is dead, a lot of big media is investing in ever bigger media.
Here’s Carr’s post:
Isn’t “mass culture” redundant? 😉 And isn’t that the true debate, whether or not it does – and will always – exist as a defining marketplace force?