Monday, October 22, 2007

The long tail and the death of the (passively consumed) hit

My blogging buddy BadgerGravling got me thinking about our 'hit' culture (and the long tail) and the argument that there will 'always be' hits. (read his post What the Long Tail is missing)

And I started feeling myself drawn to the idea while I watched two mass media events at the weekend - the Rugby World Cup final and the F1 in Brazil. Surely this kind of broadcast - of live events - could never be supplanted by the long tail?

I think Badger is right about the relationship changing. I want to hear the Radio 5 commentary, and then decide which camera angles I want to watch from etc etc. Theoretically (streaming mobile, anyone?) everyone witnessing can be part of the process of producing that live event. Many people will default to what's shown from the centre, but those many people will likely be those who aren't mashing up in the rest of their lives - for whom participating and co-creating is less natural. Time will change the % on either side - as generation-c takes charge.

As for the F1 - did I want all the interruptive TV ads, did I want the poor ITV analysis? No, I didn't have a choice. A communal experience served by people I have trust in (place authority in) would have served something better, for me.

Some things will always be popular. But the versions they are witnessed as will be myriad. The aggregation of these versions may approximate a 'hit' in the old broad model. But it won't be the same thing. There will be multiple community niched versions of how we witness the same single 'hit' event. Advertising should be devised to suit each of these differently witnessed versions - if it wants to overcome the crisis of interruption.

Badger describes the AND/OR world we are in. You can have 'hits' AND 'long tail'. And I agree. Right now that is clearly the case. But it won't always be. Prepare for the shift.

Reed's Law (referred to in my white papers) reveals that the economics of the long tail will always overtake those of the 'hit', given time.

The film example Badger refers to is good (ie I'll watch a clip on YouTube AND go and see the movie in a theatre). But I can imagine 'films' created in a far more co-creational/ participatory way. Take a step or two down the road. Wouldn't it be more fun to step into the film, take part, shape its outcomes with your friends?

is but a baby step towards that. Wait till we get jogging along. Then, is it possible you'll still want to sit back and watch someone else's centrally contrived movie?

The networked world is a participatory one. Passive consumption does not fit.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?