Fringe, front and centre

Wired points out a new economic model heralded by the Internet – the rise in exposure and revenue from the non-mainstream blockbuster product. Thanks to the “infinite shelfspace” of online retailers like Amazon and iTunes, niche markets known as the “long tail” in distribution charts, are getting more popular and profitable than the Top 10 megahits. The 80-20 rule doesn’t apply on the Internet.

Long tail dynamics is good news for the counter culturalists – it means more choice and variety, rather than the often predicted pureeing of culture into a MTV-Walmart-McDonalds mass of blah and generica.

The Internet has always been the long tail of information. Whether its obscure sexual fetishes or dissertative dissections of sci-fi films, it’s probably in there in the form of websites, discussion boards or weblogs.

VentureBlog points out that e-retailers must understand that there’s massive opportunities in niche markets online. Take eBay, for instance. It’s all about catering to the long tail – the rare, the discontinued, the single quantity.

Jim McGee adds another facet to the phenomenon. The long tail shakes the old concepts of organizational control from its foundations, including leadership roles. “In a mass market world or organization there is room for only one message and, frequently, only one messenger,” McGee decries. “From this industrial perspective, attention management looms as a grave threat.”

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