Newspapers come and the news is gone the next day. TV reports are even briefer. Magazines tell their stories week by week, or month by month, and then they’re forgotten. But content on the Internet has a more persistent life cycle. Now, content can live forever — or at least, a lot longer than it used to. And, in our current information age, content of all types can prosper even if it lies in the eddies and swirls along the edges instead of the mainstream of pop culture.
Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired magazine, wrote an entire book (and blog) about this phenomenon, called The Long Tail. Here’s his theory, in a nutshell:
The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-target goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.
This idea of the Long Tail perfectly describes my experience with an online tribute page I created for my friend Alan Dumas, who died suddenly of a heart attack in April 1999. Continue reading