There’s an interesting discussion over at the Chris Anderson’s blog on the ascendant forces that are creating a new era of Long Tails

There’s yet another source that is helping to give rise to the Long Tail:  The continual consolidation and commensurate decline in quality of mainstream media content output. This is especially true for music and radio, true of some journalism, and (partially) true for film.

Let’s look at few examples:  The quality of music found and promoted by big labels has, over the past few decades, dropped precipitously (think insipid boy bands); Making matters worse, the major radio companies use shorter playlists to play less and less (payola funded) music.

Its no surprise both industries are in decline — while Indie labels –the LT alternative — are actually thriving.

Then there are films — as they become ever more expensive to produce, producers aim for the lowest common denominator. While the LCD may help an individual film, collectively, it lowers the quality of the entire film industry’s output. Is it really such a surprise that movie theatre attendance is down?

The good side of this is that it creates an opportunity for well written, inexpensive, indie films to gain exposure.

Even the mass media itself has succumbed to increasing consolidation and quality slippage:  We’ve seen time and again investigative journalism falter as owners attempt to increase profits by reducing expenses. Good investigative journalism is expensive and difficult; But the net result is that people trust corporate journalism less and less. That’s created the opening for another source of content: The Long Tail of blogs, podcasts and video logs.

Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are in decline, as is TV viewership. Why?  Its Hamburger Helper all over again. None of these events occur in a vaccuum;  Media consolidates, quality declines, what’s left over all start to look alike.

But the internet allows for an viable alternative to come into use: Blogs. Poof! There go your readers.  For Radio, its the rise of iPods and SatellitesPoof! There go your listeners. Print media is deep into the effect. Hollywood is only starting to feel it, as is TV. (Haven’t figured out about books, as we produce so many unique titles each year).

Bottom line:  Any content industry that finds itself dramtically reducing variety or quality or both, is an industry heading for long term trouble — especially if the internet can be used to easily and cheaply find an adequate or superior substitute.

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UPDATE: July 31, 2005 11:12 pm

Judge Richard Posner wastes nearly 5,000 words of primarily obtuse filler to observe that MSMedia is liberal, and that blogs threaten them.

He could have written a much more interesting essay if he understood the 1) Long Tail, 2) the impact of consolidation on content producers, and 3) the consumer’s exercise of choice.

And all he had to do was read either this or this . . .

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Bad News
By RICHARD A. POSNER
NYTimes, July 31, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/31/books/review/31POSNER.html

Category: Books, Film, Media, Music, Television

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

23 Responses to “Content Consolidation & the Long Tail”

  1. Parker says:

    The declining quality argument is nothing but drivel of the “good old days” variety. Mediocre work has always outnumbered masterwork by a staggering ratio. Every church in 18th century Germany had a choir master performing several hours of new music every Sunday; only the stuff by JS Bach and a few others survived, because only the good stuff was worth preserving. Hundreds of pubs in England had rock bands in the 1960s, but the Beatles turned out to be one of the few that stood the test of time. Or, think of how many insipid paintings have been made of waterlillies and how few Monets there are.

    We are more aware of the enormous volume of medicore-bad art and entertainment today because of improved distribution channels, and long-tailing serves to make it seem as if there is even more mediocre-bad stuff out there, because it lasts longer than it would have just a few years ago. But no one has produced any evidence that the ratio of good art to crap has changed much since, well, ever.

  2. I appreciate your comments — but disagree — in the golden days of hollywood, there was a concentration of talent — thats now been watered down by so many different channels and outlets.

    There’s a lot of great content being produced — but its spread out — and at times, can be difficult to find.

  3. Ralph says:

    After a while I got to think it was my fault that I couldn’t appreciate modern music starting with punk rock and endless variations since. Maybe its true as the first poster is saying that we are hopeless nostalgia buffs for the “good old days.” Lately I have taken up the guitar and can appreciate rock guitar a little better but I doubt I will become a fan. Thank goodness for the continued popularity of folk, country, and Nashville.

  4. dsquared says:

    hrrrm … not wanting to diss the Christian Science Monitor and all that but show me an indie label that’s “thriving” and I’ll show you a guy who’s forgotten about his tax bill.

  5. R. A. Rubin says:

    Books, small amount of major publishers producing the same authors over and over again. The internet hasn’t caught on yet, but Amazon and others market a gazillion books, independent small presses few folks know about for a select clientle. So your theory works here too.

  6. I think books fit right in with your analysis.

    The difference is whether there is (or used to be) a choke-point between the creater and the reader/listener/viewer. For radio and TV, there are the licensed stations. For movies there are the theater chains. Books never had quite the same choke point (there have always been niche publishers and niche bookstores), but even there, the drop in cost of production and distribution has been feed the growth of the long tail for a long time.

    What we’re seeing is disintermediation in all the “content” industries. Books are just ahead of the curve.

  7. Kit says:

    I read your comments on Alterman’s blog and it made me angry-somehow you stole my thoughts. The internet and the variety of content has created a new paradigm, and as someone said (don’t know who), with a new paradigm, everyone starts at zero. You would think that some “suit” with a pair would figure out that it is of no use to try to duplicate Fox News…who needs 2? The decision makers in the media, music, movies are just like our politicians, better to take no risk and keep your job than to try to reach out for something new/different.

  8. jonb says:

    Time is a wonderful filter.

    Mediocre products are blessedly forgotten.

    That being said, at times, technology enables the development of new “arts”.

    Take rock music. It was enabled by electronic amplification, primarily.

    After a few years, everything worth doing and exploring were done. Rock ended in about 1975, give or take a few years.

    Nothing worth listening to has happened since. It was all done already.

    The same with talking movies.

    The same with television, MANY years ago.

    BLOGS will last a few more years.

    We’ll see

  9. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  10. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  11. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  12. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  13. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  14. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  15. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  16. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  17. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  18. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  19. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  20. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  21. The Carnival of the Capitalists (Mmmmm, Capitalism!)

    Welcome to the August 1st, 2005 edition of The Carnival of the Capitalists.

    I have a confession…

    Each week I visit the COTC, but I’ve been a scanner. I’ll look for titles that jump out at me, titles that seem likely to tickle my fan…

  22. Steve Ball says:

    “Mediocre products are blessedly forgotten. That being said, at times, technology enables the development of new “arts”. Take rock music. It was enabled by electronic amplification, primarily.

    After a few years, everything worth doing and exploring were done. Rock ended in about 1975, give or take a few years.

    Nothing worth listening to has happened since. It was all done already.”

    What an exceptionally sad and narrow view that misses the entire point of the power of the long tail. The long tail exists partially because of the diversity of taste that gives 1M people the ability to enjoy 1M different artists and claim that our favorite five are amazing while the other 999,995 suck (or are not worthy of our attention.) BTW, my fave five are not the same as yours (or anyone elses.)

    The idea that ‘everything worth doing and exploring were done’ is inaccurate and debilitating at best, and indicates a close-minded deafness about what is actually happening all over the world, even at this very moment, at worst. This statement is astounding in a world where Robert Fripp, Bill Frisell, Glen Branca, Michael Brooke, Trey Gunn, Radiohead, Death Cab, Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Adrian Belew, and thousands of practicing world-class guitarists continue to expand, refine and redefine the boundaries of what is possible with electric guitars.

    But even more importantly, the long tail is not about defining and cataloging a few ‘peak performances’ by a few genius artists.

    It is about unprecedented participation and inclusion in a culture where everyone has zero barrier to entry in activities where YOU are the author, the player, the composer, the writer, the performer, the blogger, the distributor, and the critic. The long tail is about participation in the creative process rather than simply consuming (and perhaps arrogantly judging or writing off) the work of others.

    The idea that there is ‘nothing worth listening to’ may be a reflection of the poverty of an unmotivated listener, and not a measure of amazing value that exists in a world where 6B creative people are gradually moving from consumption to participation and expression.

  23. Steve, I’m with you — there’s lots of worthwhile stuff post-1975 — you just have to really hunt to find it.