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The Long Tail and Welcome to the Tribe

The editor of Wired magazine, Chris Anderson has published a book titled The Long Tail. There has been considerable buzz about this book for over a year on the Internet. The basic concept is that we have grown up with a bestseller or hit culture. In the 1950s and 1960s most people listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, and went to see the same movies. This was all to the advantage of mega monopoly producers of this entertainment. There was no real market beyond what they produced as the costs of production and distribution were major barriers.

Anderson’s book documents that this culture of “hits” is now under threat as niche markets in books, music, and film have used the Internet to find and distribute to smaller markets.

We are in transition from an information culture to a recommendation culture.

If you enjoy novels set in Southeast Asia, you can find this category on amazon.com or you can google the appropriate search phrase, and find thousands of websites where such novels are discussed, described, and sold. The long tail is an aggregator of this market. If you go into a traditional bookstore, you find the “head” of the market, or the bestsellers, the books that may become “hits” and the books published and distributed in the conventional way by large publisher in New York, London or Toronto.

It is no longer expense to produce a book or a record. Anderson calls this the “democratizing the tools of production” where you can edit and print from your desktop. Also there has been a “democratizing of the tools of distribution.”

Britannica has 80,000 entries. Wikipedia has over 1 million. The first encyclopedia was the “head” and Wikipedia is now the tail, a very long tail. The first is written by experts and produced in print form, taking a long time to produce and modify; the second is produced by peer production which is rapid in production and modification capability.

Anderson says, “People are re-forming into thousands of cultural tribes of interest, concerned less by geographic proximity and workplace chatter than by shared interest.”

If you are checking this blog, then you are likely a member of thousands of others whose tribal interest centers on the history, language, and culture of Thailand and Southeast Asia. This tribe is sufficient to sustain a publishing industry. It will likely be sufficient to sustain a movie industry, refashioned to take advantage of the new means of production and distribution. Movies will no longer be the monopoly of Hollywood. Each tribe will have its own moviemakers, authors, singers, and painters.

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