Monday, December 27, 2004

The Tail of The Power Curve

Welcome to the shallow end of the Blogosphere Power Curve, or as I like to refer to it, the primordial ooze. The latest attention-grabbing idea is The Long Tail, where the trailing portion of the power curve approaches zero but never quite gets there. The article from Wired examines the effect of making the long tail of the popularity curve available to the people whose taste makes them occupants of the tail, but because of scarcity of transportation and retail space were SOL.

Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see "Anatomy of the Long Tail"). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."

Or as I sometimes put it: He who becomes the wealthiest does so in the smallest possible increments.

Blogs are the production aspect of the argument that Wired makes in its article. I hope that I have found a few like minded souls out there who enjoy my work. Maybe someday I'll pop out a post that because of its insight is carried on by some of you and into the positive feedback loop of more and more people saying, "this is a good idea, please take a look at it."

That would be nice. I'm not holding my breath for it, though. Sometimes you're the brilliant idea, most of the time you're the feedback loop. What is really important in the quest for new ideas is that someone, somewhere, is having a great new idea. If they have a blog, even better, because then someone might read the idea and agree. If that person has a blog and advances the idea, then there are two sets of preferably non-identical readerships that are now exposed to the idea. And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and you get the idea. Where the article talks about pulling consumers down the tail of the power curve, eventually the ideas created in the tail (aka primordial soup) tend upwards. As it goes, the idea is challenged and refined, and ultimately may break out of the 'sphere entirely.

Not a bad outcome for the lone voice in the wilderness. Then again, in the wild west of the blogosphere, you are never really alone.

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