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    thoughts on the long tail and a metaphor of increasing resolution
    People are communicating in the long tail.

    The long tail is basically the the niche market leveraged by digital technology. The efficiency, and in particular the spatial efficiency, of a digital network liberates retail from the "tyranny of the physical," resulting in a profitable business model for selling obscure products. In the old days, only the most popular products warranted the relatively expensive real estate that they occupied—several cubic centimeters for a CD. Not enough people bought items on the backlist to support the costs of running a brick and mortar shop, so big hits dominated the racks. There just wasn't enough room for every album, dvd, book, etc. But on an e-commerce site, there's room and then some. The long tail consists of all those products each of which only a few people want. Though each item lacks a high volume of sales individually, their sales together compare to the sales of the few most popular titles.

    What we see here is an increase of resolution. Imagine a screen with a resolution of 10x10. There's only enough room for 100 pixels. Quite simply, with a higher resolution screen, there's more room for pixels. A digital network is higher resolution storage than a brick and mortar network—there's more room for products (provided they can be digitized). So, thinking of retailers as screens displaying a society's interests (implied by their purchases), Amazon is a far more detailed picture than was the Sears and Roebuck of 1950.

    And the same thing is happening in the telecommunications industry. In addition to consuming products, people also also consume of information. The main medium of information used to be the radio and television networks. These networks, like brick and mortar stores, could only be supported by the most popular titles, and there being only 3 hours of prime time, less popular shows get the squeeze.The internet, in contrast, has enough room for 40 million people to have their very own channel via Youtube. Television and radio are extremely low in resolution compared to the so called "new media." My selection of blogs, twitter feeds, facebook friends, youtube channels, etc. compose an articulate picture of my interests, more nuanced and refined than my selection in TV shows ever hoped to be.

    But what exactly is this tendency of increasing resolution and why is it happening...


    Fri, Jul 23, 2010  Permanent link

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