3 July 2008

The Long Tail? I prefer to say the Shorter Head

An engaging concept that is shaking the world is that of the Long Tail, a book by Chris Anderson based on an article he had written -- to the effect that content and much else in the age of Internet is getting fragmented in choices and opening up countless possibilities in content and commerce. This is being challenged in a Harvard Business Review which in turn is being discussed rather well in this piece in TechCrunch.
I am yet to catch the original book, but it is intuitive as well as empirical that we are spending more time on the Net and doing stuff I would not have been able to do as a kid.
(For instance, the other day I caught on YouTube an engaging video of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's outburst at the UN Council in December 1971, when Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan -- it certainly inspired me enough to want to read more of that period, and created a "demand" inside me! -- more on that later)
Now, the Harvard review, in my opinion, must be analysing "facts" of the present, while concluding that the Long Tail is not going far in generating a sufficient variety of demand.
My argument is not that the tail will lengthen, but the head will become smaller.
Mass media of today is like the head, and the Internet is like the tail. People will continue to need some common ground for their social and communal needs but will flock to bigger sources for bigger things.
I am beginning to liken the Internet like water: We use it all the time, and have various devices and uses for it and do it based on our ease and necessity. If you draw water from a river and irrigate a field with a canal, the chances are high you visit the river-bank less everyday. It is a bit complex from the point of view of advertising metrics, but the Long Tail and the Short Head are a fact of life now, Harvard or no Harvard.


Meera said...

True and very well written! While the internet is no longer a luxury, it's pretty much a necessity!

Madhavan said...

thank you meera. Hope to see you sometime. you have my mail ID in the presentation