Thursday, October 09, 2008

Arguments against the Long tail

The long tail observation is based on the idea that well organised distribution of content is no-longer necessary… that content is king and that the consumer is king of content. Following this logic any content can and will be made available for any consumer at any time; the smallest niche of demand will be personally served and everyone will put together their own channels and playlists that are as unique to them as their fingerprint.

This feels very much like the future and pretty liberating as well; endless choice of endless content. Having said this it is easy to forget or ignore the downside of this. The best example I can think of is the BBC in the UK which is TV equally funded by a licence fee for everyone who owns one. Australian friends of mine find this hilariously antiquated – like a TV was a dangerous weapon such as a handgun that needs to be controlled. What this means is that the BBC does not have the remit to make a much money as possible and instead has the one to serve the public interest.

Stephen Fry makes this argument 1000 times better than I every could but it boils down to the idea that a diverse society needs collective broadcasting entities to integrate us, care about our cultural experience and germinate and grow us into content that we would not alternatively have found our way to.

The alternative is a world where people exist only within their small niche which the content market will serve as cheaply as it possibly can.

I am sold that the market will not always nourish the right content for the greater interest of everybody and would not change the BBC. I wonder how many other markets would work better with this or some other model.

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