Lee Gomes of The Wall Street Journal explores a Harvard Business School professor’s challenge to Chris Anderson’s 2006 book The Long Tail.
The Long Tail theory holds that society 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.” The reason involves the abundance of easy choice that the Web makes possible.
Gomes condenses the opposing view for his readers:
Anita Elberse, a marketing professor, looked at data for online video rentals and song purchases, and discovered that the patterns by which people shop online are essentially the same as the ones from offline. Not only do hits and blockbusters remain every bit as important online, but the evidence suggests that the Web is actually causing their role to grow, not shrink.
Elberse describes research showing that even in our cultural consumption we tend to be intensely social folks. We like experiencing the same things that other people are experiencing — and the mere fact that other people are experiencing and liking something makes us like it even more. Far from being cultural rugged individualists, most of us are only too happy to have others suggest to us what we’d like.
Interestingly, open-minded Anderson welcomes the challenge on his blog.