Chopping the Long Tail down to size …

Excerpted from The Register, “Chopping the Long Tail down to size”, Andrew Orlowski, Nov. 7, 2008

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The most comprehensive empirical study of digital music sales ever conducted has some bad news for Californian technology utopians. Since 2004, WiReD magazine editor Chris Anderson has been hawking his “Long Tail” proposition around the world: blockbusters will matter less, and businesses will “sell less of more”.

Examining tens of millions of transactions from a large digital music provider, economist Will Page with Mblox founder Andrew Bud  … discovered that instead of following a Pareto or “power law” curve, as Anderson suggested, digital song sales follow a classic Log Normal distribution. 80 per cent of the digital inventory sold no copies at all – and the ‘head’ was far more concentrated than the economists expected.

In another surprise, 80 per cent of the revenue came from 52,000 songs. What’s eye-catching about the number? Well, the typical inventory of a conventional high street record store was around 4,000 CDs. Or … around 52,000 songs.

This really isn’t the upbeat fairy tale message Anderson has spent four years selling on the conference circuit.  The Long Tail helped bolster netsters’ morale – although its success owed much to sloppy thinking – and in particular, metaphorical logic.

Following the WiReD Way of Business as a matter of faith could be catastrophic for your business and investment decisions.

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Full article:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/07/long_tail_debunked/

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