A “Long Tail”Â Awakening
OTTAWA, CANADA – Last week while on vacation, I finally had a chance to read Chris Anderson’s book “œThe Long Tail.” (http://www.longtail.com) Granted, reading quasi-economic theory might not be considered much of a vacation, but sometimes it’s refreshing to slow down and mull over what you’ve read before having to move on to the next urgent work project. But I digress.For those of us who work day to day with technology issues Anderson’s theories, on how the tail is shaping the future of commerce and culture, make infinite sense. But it didn’t dawn on me how radical some people view the Long Tail premise until I had the opportunity to see Anderson at a conference this week.The room consisted of a balanced mix of well-known policy makers, current & former high-profile politicians, and 20/30 year olds who are likely to become future leaders in the public policy arena. Not surprisingly it wasn’t the 20/30year olds that challenged Anderson; rather it was those who previously or currently shape public policy that had difficulties grasping the concepts. How could the marginal cost to distribute a product be zero? How was it that many blogs and wikis were more popular most main stream news sites?They openly questioned who assured the quality and accuracy of content, the ability of on-line communities to self-regulate. They were doubtful of Anderson’s comments that the fear people voting their disapproval by not clicking a blog can assure a blogger’s quality. It was obvious that Anderson had faced similar comments before and was able to deftly addressed their concerns.At first, I thought it was a shame that people couldn’t recognize that economies and culture were undergoing radical changes. Was it fear of technology changing things they know and are comfortable with? Was it fear of not being able to talk about”I Love Lucy” around the water cooler? Or were they like us? Trying to figure out where the Long Tail theory will take things? By the end of the day I realized, they probably did”get it.” Rather than a fear of the unknown, it was the realization that they might miss the opportunity to be part of this revolution.We have to be remember, that not so long ago people were predicting that the advent of email would be the demise of communications amongst people. Obviously no one foresaw instant messaging, but can anyone point to a time in human history when interpersonal communications has been any higher? Who knows-. perhaps the Long Tail predictions will prove to be false. While personally I think Anderson in bang-on, we have to be mindful to bring along those who resist or have yet to grasp the theory.