Over at Harvard Business Review Anita Elberse has published a critique of the long tail based on a study which looked at sales figures from online music vendor Rhapsody, on-demand video vendor QuickFlix, and Nielsen VideoScan and SoundScan services, as well as performing less rigorous analyses on Amazon and other online “entertainment and publishing” vendors.
Needless to say there is a lot of debate going on around this article not to mention a dialogue between Chris Anderson and Elberse both on Anderson’s blog and the HBR site. Over at O’Reilly Kurt Cagle has got into the mix with his own insight into the ‘complex, multivariate structure of the long tail. He has this to say about Elberse’s finding:
This, in fact, conforms remarkably well to William McPhee’s Formal Theories of Mass Behavior, publishing in the early 1960s, which describe the traditional blockbuster pattern of marketing consumption, which argues that statistically, the top 1% of most large segmented markets (such as those found for entertainment products) typically does as well or better than the top 9% after it, and that there is a dramatic logarithmic falloff that makes the tail generally unprofitable.