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July 2, 2006

The Long Tail

I heard an interesting radio segement today about the Long Tail. Chris Anderson coined the term the Long Tail in an article in Wired in 2004, and is releasing a book on the same topic in a few days. It has been talked about most in reference to the Entertainment industry (books, movies, music), but is also relevant to marketing in general, and I'm thinking about the possible impacts on organizing. Essentially the idea of the Long Tail is that there are two markets: the Head, which are the few best sellers or top hits that everyone knows about (the DaVinci Code, Mariah Carey), and then there is a Long Tail, consisting of multitudes of items that hardly anyone has heard of. The idea is that with new distribution channels, the Long Tail has become as important, or even more important, as the Head. Items in the Long Tail, which are in low demand and have a low sales volume, such as my Uncle Bill's recent non-blockbuster, Beneath the Surface : Submarines Built in Seattle and Vancouver 1909 - 1918 , can COLLECTIVELY make up a market share that exceeds the best sellers or blockbusters, as long as there is a large enough distribution channel. What are the large distribution channels? Not surprisingly, these are Internet companies with almost endless inventories, such as Amazon, Netflix or iTunes. Anderson claims that this is leading to a completely different kind of economic marketplace, with a new focus on the Long Tail which was never possible when stores were limited to the inventory on hand. The niche market will rule in the 21st century. This also may lead to a completely different kind of culture, with less and less of a "common culture" (if there ever was such a thing). I can think of a number of relations to organizing and advocacy, though I'm mostly coming up with questions rather than any grand conclusions (how do we focus on the "long tail"? how does a focus on the "long tail" lead to common action? if the US is shifting towards niches, how will organizing change? Will this lead to more atomization? Less commercialization? More diversity? etc. etc.)

June 1, 2006

Web 2.0 - Over already?

A trademark dispute over who could use the term Web 2.0 blew-up last week in the blogosophere, when O'Reilly, who coined the now widely used term, sent a cease and desist letter against an Irish company putting on a conference called the "Web 2.0 Conference". This immediately sent the blogosphere up in arms. While it is now settled, I wonder if this signals the end of the term Web 2.0. Is it really a generic enough term - or even a good enough term to describe the second generation of technology enhanced communication? The term certainly doesn't portray the usefulness of these new technologies for activists!

Speaking of trademarks, some old friends of mine from high school were involved in a similarly silly trademark dispute with Kellogg Cereal. Rob, Leo & Pete started the very successful steel drum band, the Toucans, after learning how to play the steel drums during 0 period in high school. Kellogg's threatened that their band's name "was likely to confuse customers". It took six years, but they evenutally beat Kellogg's. Read the press release of their victory.

May 17, 2006

Why I started a blog

When I taught Community Organizing and Advocacy in Cyberspace 4 years ago, we barely mentioned the role a "blog" would have in politics, advocacy or anything else. Now there are 37 million blogs in the world, and their influence has grown rapidly. The Christian Science Monitor describes today their rise in power and popularity today. One recent example is how the biting Stephen Colbert roast of George W. Bush (which you must watch if you have not yet seen it), did not make it into the morning papers the day after it occurred. It was only after extensive blogging about the roast did it really get mainstream media attention. With blogs being so popular now in politics, culture, advocacy, and just about everything else, I decided that I better start one too. So, that's why I started a blog!