Some Critique of The Long Tail

I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It refutes some aspects of the Long Tail theory, providing some good data to support the author’s view. I found it interesting in view of the unquestioning acceptance I’ve witnessed about the Long Tail theory.

Should You Invest in the Long Tail?

It was a compelling idea: In the digitized world, there’s more money to be made in niche offerings than in blockbusters. The data tell a different story.

Chris Anderson, the author of ‘The Long Tail’, responds in a blog entry:

Let me start by saying that the paper looks rock solid and I’m sure her analysis is accurate. But there is a subtle difference in the way we define the Long Tail, especially in the definitions of “head” and “tail”, that leads to very different results.

A note from an opinion piece in the WSJ which talks about the articles:

A book from 2006, “The Long Tail,” was one of those that appear periodically and demand that we rethink everything we presume to know about how society works. In this case, the Web and its nearly unlimited choices were said to be remaking the economy and culture. Now, a new Harvard Business Review article pushes back, and says any change occurring may be of an entirely different sort.

I would strongly suggest reading both the Harvard Business Review article and the ‘reply’ blog entry.

I read the WSJ article first, and found it gave a good framing for the Harvard Business Review article, so I’d suggest reading that first if you have time. It’s all very interesting information, and good to see some research data on the Long Tail idea.