As Journalism 2.0 migrates into ultra-local and ultra-segmented market niches, it will exposed to all the dynamics of The Long Tail. Since Chris Anderson's book by that title, there have been many more insights developed about departures from the short tail of blockbuster hits. Here's the main concepts I currently have in mind:
- As Chris Anderson explored in his follow-up book: Free, the long tail creates an abundance of alternatives for consumers and rivals for each provider. This disrupts perceived scarcities which had maintained the power to control supply and name their price. The emergent abundance of options and rivals introduces a force of economic gravity that brings prices down to zero.
- The long tail creates too much information and too many alternatives for consumers to consider. The pressure on their minds can become overwhelming as they scan, rank and filter "their drinking from the fire-hose". Rather than look for the niche that satisfies their unique preferences, they search for ways to do less thinking. Instead of behaving rationally, they exhibit cognitive patterns identified in Dan Ariely's book: Predictably Irrational.
- The abundance may backfire and result in a herd mentality. Minds are put at ease by doing what everyone else is. There's no critical thinking required to follow the buzz and conform to the taste of the trend setters. The niche then produces it's own mini-blockbuster where everyone jumps on the bandwagon, as Bill Wasik explores in And Then There's This.
- The bandwagon effect can experienced as a loss of individuality and self determination. Conformity sucks when we want to generate our own tags, bookmarks, playlists and collections. Our inclination for "loss aversion" may induce a rapid boredom with the mini-blockbuster. This quick "fall from grace" creates a churn in what sells and gets buzz that Bill Wasik calls "nanostories". Everything becomes all too familiar all too quickly to maintain a loyal base, create a follow-up offering or generate a second wave of buzz.
When customers are driven by the long tail to become flighty, fickle and faddish, with their expectations raised for free items in the infinite aisle, I suspect that profitable business models are nowhere to be found.