The Long Tail – NOT

02008-07-10 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

Study Refutes Niche Theory Spawned by Web
Faithful readers of this column might recall its own skepticism about the idea when the book first hit the stores. In retrospect, “The Long Tail” seems to have followed the template of many Wired articles: take a partly true, modestly interesting, tech-friendly idea and puff it up to Second Coming proportions.
(Via ~C4Chaos)

The article also says this:

In addition to her data crunching, Prof. Elberse reminded readers of substantial bodies of qualitative social research that suggest “The Long Tail” may have been wrong in its description of what makes consumers tick. The book implies that readers and movie viewers are eager to cast off the shackles imposed by physical inventory so they can frolic among the thousands or millions of titles in the Long Tail.

I have always thought that the notion that everyone was just waiting to search for new content was nonsense. There is TOO MUCH content on the net and we need is EDITING.

Read the whole article here.

And here is another article refuting Chris Anderson – this one is regarding his notion that free is the future of business.


  1. steve1

    Well, after having read prof. Elberse’s paper, and re-reading the original Long Tail paper, I am left with the feeling that neither study is particularly statistically nor scientifically rigorous.

    I speak as a true math geek here: the truth probably lies somewhere in the operational definitions used. If there is no rigorous, mathematical, and AGREED UPON consistent nomenclature utilized, then any effort to “confirm”or “deny” conclusions on either side is a fool’s errand: It’s just a bunch of data.

    This is precisely the problem with magazines like “Wired” reporting on things technical: An insufficient amount of mathematical/scientific method.

    It’s also a very prescient example of the problem with business schools reporting on something technical: insufficient amount of mathematical/scientific method. Then, media like, WSJ step in and call it a “refutation.”

    One non-scientific study=refutation? hmmmmmmmmm….

  2. ottmar

    Yeah, so both are opinion pieces. I don’t have a problem with that. I still disagree with Chris Anderson’s theories, whether it is the Long Tail theory or the Free is the Future of Business theory. Let’s discuss ten years from now! Hell, I would not be surprised if I’ll spend a lot less time on the net a decade from now.

  3. steve1

    “Yeah, so both are opinion pieces.”

    Sure. but this is a feature of the other Anderson piece as well (_Free is the Future of Business_). And for that matter, it is a feature of the Dawn Douglass piece, which IMO, suffers from the fallacy of “appeal to emotion” too frequently. There is precious little data/evidence backing up her claims: which is fine, as long as it’s regarded as an opinion piece.

    But, hey, to be honest, it’s like the mathematician W.V.O. Quine has discussed in a paper published in 1950 entitled _Identity, Ostension, and Hypothesis_:

    Describing reality and our perception of it, Quine make use of the analogy of ‘Neurath’s boat’: A ship on a landless sea that must be adjusted or repaired piece by piece AS IT SAILS.


    Our ability to perceive solutions to complex problems (especially technological ones) is governed by perspective, and since we have minimal perspective due to our reference frame, most solutions (or proposed solutions) tend to seem myopic at best, and completely stupid at worst. You won’t know if an idea works until you try it, even if it seems stupid in principle.

  4. ottmar

    Steve, all of y/our views are governed by perspective. It’s part of being human. We work on expanding our views by trying to inhabit multiple perspectives, but you are still going to see out of your own two eyes, if you know what I mean.

    You won’t know if an idea works until you try it, even if it seems stupid in principle.

    Easy for you to say. Different when it is your work. There are a lot of ideas I will not try. It’s my music and I owe it to my muse to do what I think best.


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