Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

The Long Tail


    One way in which we are seeing abundant information working successfully in our economy is in the entertainment industry. Spotify and Apple Music allow listeners to have access to almost any song imaginable for a monthly subscription fee. Netflix has revolutionized how we watch television and movies with hundreds available at any time of the day. Chris Anderson argues that these companies have tapped into “the long tail”.

           If we understand capitalism to function on scarcity, then it makes sense that our media and entertainment industry would be modeled after this. Anderson terms this “hit-driven economics” where only the blockbusters or mainstream music are made readily available. With this kind of approach there is “not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created… this is the world of scarcity”. However, with research into the sales of online retailers like Amazon and iTunes, there is just as much money to be made in the niches of the entertainment industry.

           Technology has fostered online retailers and “broken the tyranny of physical space” encouraging an abundance of information. Companies like Netflix have “made a good business out of what’s unprofitable fare in movie theaters and video rental shops because it can aggregate dispersed audiences”. The same is true for Amazon’s book sales and Spotify’s music. Making everything available and seeing the success that it has had globally, points toward a shift in our economy, one that is driven by information.

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