It's a Long Tail after all...

Monday, March 21, 2005

The rise of mediocrity. It's everywhere. Especially in art. For what other reason could Robbie Williams, Hillary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan be successful recording artists? Or "artists" at all? And don't even get me started on movies. They're ALL crap. It's bad enough when a movie looks promising and just sucks... but when it was aiming for mediocrity all along, it's just ugly. And it's the same in most mass media.

My boss passed me this article about a phenomenon that was dubbed The Long Tail. It helps explain the success of and Netflix.

It's based on the idea that mass media has created a "hit" culture that aims for the largest possible markets in a geographical area. For example, documentaries hardly ever get released in most cities because there are too few people in each city to warrant the cost of showing it. But if you make these documentaries available on the internet (via Netflix, for example), you can find a much bigger market because documentary fans from ALL OVER the USA have access to them. Thanks to the internet, niche markets can now be grouped up and they can make less "commercial" fare, commercial. In the future, maybe sales from a whole bunch of little individual markets will make up the profits instead of just the sales from a few (usually mediocre) hits.

Yes, the article is like 5 pages long. But it's quite an enlightening read. Revolutionary, almost (well, at least in the "web" sense of the word, haha). And like most well written and well thought-out ideas, it seems perfectly obvious AFTER you've read it, ha! By using the internet, we'll now be able to find artistic expression that we REALLY like, and we will not have to conform to mediocrity (i.e. waiting for a song to "grow on us" or praising a movie just because it "at least tried to be" original). Maybe now we'll all have a voice and we'll destroy the steady tide of mediocrity. Maybe our individual opinions will finally make a difference... like the internet originally promised us. I for one, intend to hold it to its promise.


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