In case other folks hadn’t noticed, Wired has become worth reading again. Case in point: There is a piece in the October issue that is going to become de rigeur in tech conference, venture capital and startup circles, with the phrase “long tail” showing up in too many restyled PPTs.
The gist: Chris Anderson (Wired’s editor-in-chief) argues that popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability. Infinitely long playlists and lower costs at, among other places, media outfits, mean that it is not only possible to make money selling low volume items, it is entirely rational.
I can quibble with Anderson’s opening example — Amazon’s recommendations engine’s effect on “Touching the Void” sales — but his point stands. People want the “All” option when it comes to consumption. In other words, sometimes editorial filtering is not only unnecessary, it is downright unwelcome.
Side note: Anderson asks the following question, which most people get wrong: “What percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online media store (Netflix, etc.) will rent or sell at least once a month?”
Most people answer 20%, having been well schooled on the Pareto principle. The trouble is, that answer is wrong. The correct answer? 99%. There is demand for nearly every one one of the top 10,000 titles. People get the above answer wrong because they confuse hits (where Pareto applies with a vengeance) with sales of any sort. Anything can sell to someone.