Chris Anderson Admits Long Tail is Wrong

By December 03, 2008 5 comments

One of the cornerstones of Web 2.0 is Chris Anderson’s Long Tail economic model, which argued that the Internet had introduced a fundamental, and democratizing, change in the economic model. Contrary to a traditional power law, where 20% of products sold represent the greatest profitability, Anderson, in his book The Long Tail: While the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, argued that it is the other 80% that will be most profitable with easy availability of non-mainstream items the Internet affords. Like many cornerstones, Anderson’s thesis was accepted as a priori, one of the fundamental, unexamined, truths of Web 2.0 and, with that, the world. Well, no more.

Following the growing criticisms of Anderson’s models by economists, Google’s Eric Schmidt has delivered what is seen as the death blow to the long Tail:

“I would like to tell you that the Internet has made such a level playing field that the Long Tail is absolutely the place to be, that there’s so much differentiation, so much diversity, so many new voices. I’d love to tell you that that’s in fact how it really works. Unfortunately, it’s not. What really happens is that we follow what’s called a powerlaw.”

(Is it a sign of industry insularity that, while economists have been criticizing the flaws for a while, it takes a word from Google to make this real? Or is it one more portent of the company’s growing role as truth makers?)

The WiReD editor admits that his theory is . . . flawed. It has become increasingly clear that the money is still in the Head, though Anderson’s fighting to keep as much legitimacy for his theory as possible:

“I'll end by conceding a point: It's hard to make money in the Tail. As Schmidt notes, it's also hard to make money if you don't have a Tail (to satisfy minority taste, which improves the consumer experience), but the revenues are disproportionately in the Head.”

I guess he’ll soon find out, now that his book has been relegated to the Tail.

Page top

5 Comments

[...] think this is terribly shocking. The "Long Tail" demand theory has been questioned again and again in application to sales of popular culture related goods (hmm… I wonder why they [...]

Submitted by SEOTipsOnline.com » The Long Tail Theory Gets Challeng (not verified) - on January 04, 2009 at 11:49 pm

[...] think this is terribly shocking. The "Long Tail" demand theory has been questioned again and again in application to sales of popular culture related goods (hmm… I wonder why they [...]

Submitted by Econs Webhosting Blog » The Long Tail Theory Gets Chal (not verified) - on January 08, 2009 at 06:13 am

[...] think this is terribly shocking. The "Long Tail" demand theory has been questioned again and again in application to sales of popular culture related goods (hmm… I wonder why they [...]

Submitted by The Long Tail Theory Gets Challenged, Just Not in Search Que (not verified) - on January 14, 2009 at 09:06 pm

[...] think this is terribly shocking. The "Long Tail" demand theory has been questioned again and again in application to sales of popular culture related goods (hmm… I wonder why they [...]

Submitted by Vax SEO Reporting » Blog Archive » The Long Tail (not verified) - on May 12, 2009 at 10:43 am

I would like to know what effect piracy has on the Head though. Surely more popular products are easier to pirate? While consumers are forced to buy more obscure products in the Long Tail.

Submitted by Tallulah (not verified) - on September 09, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas