October 06, 2004

The Tail, Instead of the Top: Micro-Interests Distributed

That would be the tail of the power law curve. Wired/Chris Anderson write about it here:


Chris was at Web 2.0 today. Well done article. I have to read it again to take it apart. For a long time, I've been thinking about why the power law distribution and those at the top are not what matters on the web. Rather, in the case of linking and blogs, the middle section, where the symmetric conversations happen -- when a blog has 50-150 inbound links and in a month's time, links out to that many -- are interesting. In contrast, blogs that have thousands of inbound links, but don't link out to thousands in a month are at the top. Those blogs at the top resemble broadcast media. So Chris has examined this concept even further down, at the tail of a power law curve, where the tail reflects the distributed micro-interests across millions of people, a few at a time.

Today at Web 2.0, stats were bandied about like the one where 25% of Amazon's sales come from products that never see a store shelf because regular stores just couldn't carry that many items, selling so few. It's the power of the tail. But the question is, where else does this apply, can it be transfered, and where are the weaknesses in this theory?

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 6, 2004 11:48 PM | TrackBack

Think of it this way: Imagine someone saying

"The power of large, world-spanning, corporations is not where the real power lies - though those megacorporations have thousands, tens of thousands of employees, and can buy and sell Senators, the REAL POWER is in small businesses, because overall, if you take the huge mass of small businesses, far more people are collectively employed in one or two or ten-person firms".

Well, in way, there's meaning in that, as if you can come up with a product that's used widely in small businesses, that may be more fruitful than trying to sell to a handful of big businesses (e.g. microcomputers vs. mainframes)

In another way, it's just being wooly-headed.

It depends on what you want to do.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 7, 2004 01:15 AM