Not another The Long Tail book review

**Update: I’m an idiot. See bolding below.

I just finished reading the review copy of The Long Tail, and in exchange for the review copy, I had to write a review of it. In short, The Long Tail is a must read by anyone wanting to understand a shift in our economy. For the past several decades, we’ve had the idea of “hits” beat into our head. Now, for at least some slices of our economy, this is being turned on its head. Several years from now, The Long Tail could take its place among the most revolutionary business books of our time.

However, there are already tons of reviews everywhere that talk about how groundbreaking the book is, so I wanted to take a different approach. I picked some passages from the book that pointed out other ideas that, while not as large or revolutionary as The Long Tail concept itself, could turn out to be just as enlightening.

Onto the quotes:

“This is why niches are different. One person’s noise is another’s signal. If a producer intends something to be absolutely right for one audience, it will, by definition, be wrong for another. The compromises necessary to make something appeal to everyone mean that it will almost certainly not appeal perfectly to anyone -that’s why they call it the lowest common denominator. ( Page 118 )”

This is something that I have known for a long time. People who know me know my aversion to all things that are immensely popular. I’ve always annoyed friends with my spiel of “If something is THAT popular, it can’t be that good.” It’s good to see this concept explained a little more succinctly.

“As the tail gets longer, the signal-to-noise ratio gets worse. Thus, the only way a consumer can maintain a consistently good enough signal to find what he or she wants is if the filters get increasingly powerful ( Page 119 )”

Technorati, del.icio.us, etc… are attempting to be these filters for the internet. I am curious to see if anyone they are going to make the jump and try and monatize the filters they are building. Whoever can do this will make a LOT of money.

“It’s hard to overstate how fundamental to economics the notion is that you can’t have it all for free -the entire discipline is oriented around studying trade-offs and how they’re made. Adam Smith, for instance, created modern economics by considering the trade-offs between time, or convenience, and money. He discussed how a person could live near town, and pay more for rent of his home, or live farther away and pay less, paying the difference out of his convenience.” And since then, economics has been all about how to divide finite pies.( Page 144 )“

To me, this could end up being bigger than the The Long Tail itself. I mean imagine a technology advance that disproves Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? The idea that consumers would not have to make compromises when making financial and economical decisions is a huge fundamental shift in the way we make decisions.

”But for DJs, the important information is in the label, not the track. Indie record labels are like tags, providing a clue about what hyper-specialized micro-genre a track is likely to be. Labels are a way to allow DJs to cheaply and efficiently find tracks that are likely to satisfy their audience expectations. In this sense, labels lay the infrastructure for the later aggregation of decentralized information that takes place on the dance floor.(Page 179)“

I’ve written about the use of filters before. I think this is an interesting use of a filter in real life, but I would like to hear more examples. Perhaps book publishers? Taken computer books for example. O’Reilly has developed a reputation for certain types of technical books. Lots of in-depth information on usually cutting edge topics. Springer, on the other hand, focuses more on the academic side of computing. I am sure that after having read about this, I’ll begin to notice more and more examples of these real world filters.

”In short, we’re seeing a shift from mass culture to massively parallel culture. Whether we think of it this way or not, each of use belongs to many different tribes simultaneously, often overlapping ( geek culture and LEGO ), often not ( tennis and punk-funk ). We share some interests with our colleagues and some with our families, but not all of our interests. Increasingly, we have other people to share them with, people we never met or even think of as individuals ( e.g. blog authors or playlists creators ). ( Page 184 )“



This is becoming more and more pronounced. Boundaries are being broken down and people are becoming more and more open to other types of people. Labels like computer geeks, jocks, punks, and more are going away and people are starting to enjoy the company of those who are different than them, moving ever so slowly over to the center of some sort of social venn-diagram. Pretty much a bigger version of those people in high school who never really had a core group of friends and instead were friends with all sorts of people.

In short, I recommend picking up a copy of The Long Tail and forming your own opinions as to how valid his conclusions are. Whatever your conclusions, you have to admit that our economy is changing, and that the internet is a large reason why and in the end, the consumer will be better off. We’ll have more choice and a lower price for the goods that we purchase.

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