The Idea Dude


Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Art of the Long Tail

David Sifry continues his insight into the State of the Blogosphere. Primarily his dicussion centers around the long tail. What is the long tail? The long tail is like a power curve, that starts very high up and drops dramatically but does not terminate immediately. Instead it 'tails' off for a very time, i.e. has a very long decay. The blogspace is divided into the A-list, the B-list and the C-list. The A-list is the top 100 blogs which have thousands and tens of thousands of inbound links. (In the blog world, your net worth is directly proportional to how many people link to your blog). The B-list is the second tier of blogs with 20-1000 links representing about 155,000 blogs. Finally, we have the last segment, the C-list, the long tail, where yours truly reside, i.e. small blogs of little significance (again based on the network measure, not on the quality of the author or the readership). The long tail is where 90% or 27 million blogs reside.

Practically, the advertising money is made by the A-list because most online advertising is a volume game...1 million people read the blog, 1000 people may click through an ad and 10 may actually buy something. Theoretically, the area under the long tail is much greater than the area under the first 5-10% (the A-list) and if you can equate this to potential value, then you could postulate that the blogging long tail remains largely untapped. eBay has figured out the eCommerce long tail because it makes a lot of money through people selling very low cost goods too. Back to the Blogosphere, there's an interesting article on Blogs to Riches, my biggest takeaway here is that blogs are certainly becoming mainstream and blog empires are being setup to monetize the traffic. At least 5 of the 10 in the A-list are companies with several writers and editors to blog around the clock. Engadget founder, Pete Rojas will tell you of the 80 hour weeks he spends scouring the web for cool stuff. For him, he hit paydirt with the sale last fall of Weblogs, Inc to AOL for $25 million. Many would say that the impetus for the sale was the Engadge blog.

Clearly, the original intent of weblogs have changed over the years. Like any phenomenon someone will figure out how to make money, commericialize it and maybe even taint the idea. For the casual reader, it may no longer be clear whether what he is reading is one quality voice or simply a creative collage of multiple contributors whose sole purpose is to win your eyeballs and your future loyalty.

What will remain true, is that occasionally you will find a gem in the long tail, someone who speaks with passion, conviction and personal candour. Somehow these will make their way to the B-list over time. One hopes that they will not succumb to the allure of the A-list and sell their souls. The analogy that comes to mind are the dedicated actors and actresses who toil in obscurity in small theatres around the world for the love of their art. The lucky (or unlucky?) ones end up losing their souls in Hollywood.


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