Wired magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson writes a fascinating article about the nature of big hits and obscurities in the entertainment industry. He suggests that companies in the music, video and book industries, for example, should take a closer look at “the long tail” – the profitable non-hits that get a second chance through online distribution. Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.
But most of us want more than just hits. Everyone’s taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we’re drawn to them. Unfortunately, in recent decades such alternatives have been pushed to the fringes by pumped-up marketing vehicles built to order by industries that desperately need them.
Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots. This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound.