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 Satellites. Poof! 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.
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.
By RICHARD A. POSNER
NYTimes, July 31, 2005