The Long Tail

I recently caught up with Chris Anderson’s excellent Wired article The Long Tail from October 2004. This article discusses the consequences of disaggregating copyrighted content from the physical manufacturing/distribution/retailing chain that historically has been required to get that content to market. Because of disaggregation, niche content can become economical to distribute, and he gives some great case studies of this phenomenon in action. In particular, he makes a persuasive case that we all have minority interests that are not economical to explore today but can become economical in the future.

However, his article doesn’t do a thorough job of explaining how consumers will find the niche content they want. He cursorily references Amazon’s recommendation engine and some other editorial/filtering processes, but we still have not seen the emergence of a widely-used process that reliably orders a pool of heterogeneous content based on taste preferences. Until then, it remains very difficult to satisfy our niche interests.