The Long Tail: A Lie?

I always had a suspicion that something wasn’t quite right about that vaunted Long Tail hypothesis. It always seemed like another smoke-and-mirrors deal like the Laffer Curve.

This might be the article that kills it: Saturday Post: Choking On The Long Tail – The Unbearable Burden

Consider this scenario:

The cost of hosting the massive amount of long tail content, all the photos, video, etc is very small. As the amount of this content increases, the hosting costs rise.

As long as traffic also rises, the costs of business remain in balance with the rise in revenue.

But traffic growth is limited. There is a limited number of people in the world, there is a limited number of hours in a day. There are fundamental limits to the rate of growth of traffic.

But the amount of content collected by Google, Flickr, or YouTube, for example, grows much faster, and there is ever more of it that has to be stored and hosted. There is a legacy mountain of content and it’s becoming a mountain range.

That means expanding your data storage systems, that means more power needed to drive those systems, it means administering the storage systems, which is people intensive, the data has to be made secure, the data has to be backed up. These are the exponential rising business costs of Long Tail economics.

As the number of long tail micro-markets increases, the less profitable each one becomes. This is because each long tail micro-market competes with an increasing number of other long tail micro markets.

More of any product or service means less revenue for that product or service. A current example: more housing on the market means a lower price for housing. Same thing applies in any market.

There is no way that increases in Internet traffic can keep pace with the growing number of long tail micro-markets.

Well, I don’t know.

Let’s take Star Trek as an example.

If everything ever written and produced about the TV series Star Trek had been archived in computer readable form since the series originally aired in the 1960s, how much of it would really be worthwhile or relevant to even the hardest-core Trekker?

In this day on on-demand video, would even a Trek addict be interested in looking at the slides View-Master collected for its set?

In this day of see-it-on-screen-in-full-color, would anyone other than nostalgic maniacs look at the ditto and mimeographed fanzines produced in the early 1970s?

Who would want to see the awful collection of awful Trek toys I had collected at one time, things that had hardly any connection to the series other than having a Star Trek logo slapped on them?

See, technology changes, tastes change, people move on.

All those crappy 240×320 YouTube videos will go away some day. There are people (read: eejits) out there who won’t watch a black & white or silent movie. To them, such things are dust and a waste of time. To the generation now growing up surrounded by HDTV, those YouTube vids of today will be the View-Master slides of tomorrow.

Not everything will be saved. Not everything needs to be saved.

Not for the general public, at least.

But for historians, yes.

And that means some way will have to be devised to keep just about everything, even if it means behind a pay wall, as many databases were in the early 1980s (and may still be?).

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Explore posts in the same categories: C.O.A.T. - Other, eBooks, Tech - Other, TV, Video - DVD, Video - Online, Writing

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