Reflections on Class – 7/7/08

I hadn’t read “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?” by class time and didn’t initially grasp the heart of the Elberse’s position from the abstract presentations. Now that I’ve read it and the authors’ responses to each other, I see why the discussion leaders were challenged to sum up the disagreement, since Anderson and Elberse have differing definitions of the Head and Tail.

What I think is valid about Elberse’s position is her general caveats to not assume that :  1) hits are going away anytime soon, or that they have less significance in shaping consumer buying habits; or 2) because obscure products are more discoverable and purchasable out there in the Long Tail, enough people are going to buy them to make a Long Tail business model viable, unless your aggregation and distribution costs are near zero.

Jeff ‘s discussion on “How Not to Build an Online Market” was also cautionary, a good summary of what when wrong when propane entrepreneurs  tried to eliminate the middle man, only to discover that the middle man also served as the Customer Service department in a highly problem-prone transaction chain.

What is it about cautionary Internet tales that have a subjective appeal for me?  Perhaps it’s a personal weariness with a type of irrational exuberance among a breed of digerati who are over-eager to declare that “X is now dead!”  Examples of X include Advertising, Broadcast TV, The Water Cooler, Movie Critics, Boy Bands and Paying Sticker Price.

Whatever annoys you, there’s bound to be a digital trend watcher predicting that the Internet will do us all a favor any day now by shoving X onto the cultural ice flow.  These prognosticators are, of course, hoping their prediction will be a hit, as epitomized by Anderson’s deserved success with “The Long Tail.”  This may be why the most feverish of them can’t just get excited about the new thing that’s on its way in; the new thing/trend/Web 2.0 phenomenon must be cast as being so revolutionary that it will drive a stake through the heart of some current, irritating or unfair thing so as to make a little more room for us to embrace it.

But I have to admit that one great thing about this Internet is that I can make sweeping opinionated generalizations like that without citing any sources.


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