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The Longer Tail April 3, 2007

Posted by Steve Field in The Long Tail.

Why does The Long Tail matter? Because, as Anderson points out, it heralds the rise of the economy of choice.

One thing I couldn’t help but think about while reading the second half of Anderson’s book is how he holds unlimited choice to virtually idolized standards. Without getting into why unlimited choices is good, he continues to profess the importance of each person being able to find a niche in which he or she feels most comfortable.

I am glad he cited Cass Sunstein, a University of Chicago Law professor who authored the book Republic.com. I first read the book 4 or 5 years ago. In this book, he effectively argues that the fragmentation of media (as a result of increased choice in a digital economy) allows the public to filter information through their own personal prism. People are free to get all of their information from people who share their own political ideology — conservatives can exclusively watch FoxNews and liberals can only read DailyKos.

This also echoes Googlezon and the story of EPIC 2014. If indeed technology advances to the point where it can repackage and create personalized information streams, the we will truly be living in an unlimited long-tail economy.

But at what price?

Is this a good thing for democracy? Sunstein doesn’t think so. I appreciate that Anderson recognizes the other side, but he doesn’t, for me sufficiently address the opposition. He simply retreats into comfortable territory. Choice is good. More voices are being heard.

But are more voices being heard? Or are more voices just out there. To me, it seems that the cacophony of noise out there is preventing other voices from truly being listened to sometimes.



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