(Image from Blaugh click image for full carton including funny caption)
Somethings in this world just make sense. You dont have to be told how or why, you just intuitively feel the rightness of it. My first encounter with ice cream inside a cone shaped cookie was one such a moment, melted cheddar on tuna between two slices of rye was another. Without explanation or commentary, these thing just made sense. The Long Tail, while not as moving an experience as the meeting of cream and cone, was another of those things that just made sense. But no sooner did Chris Anderson publish his tale of new markets, new models and new money then some print media hater chime in with a few barbed critiques aimed at souring what had been a pretty universal love fest for the book. What ensued over the course of the next several days was a somewhat less then epic battle of pundits with snippy comments and declarations of victory on all sides.
If you havent heard of the Long Tail, I’ve posted about it here and Clay Shirky kicked off the recent resurrection here. The basic idea is that if you a business with near $0 inventory carrying cost (digital goods) and you give people near infinite choice digital stores), along with the tools to discover stuff they otherwise wouldnt (US Media), then you can make lots of money selling things that only 1 or 2 people buy. Cris Anderson of wired picked up on the idea in this article back in 2004 and it grew into a popular blog and now a very sucessful book.
However, according to Lee Gomes, a cranky tech cynic who’s been poopoo’ing the web since before Al Gore invented it, the Long Tail is basically a long turd. He argues in this article that the book over emphasizes and misrepresents the available data and markets anomalies as trends. Lee Gomes takes umbrage with the irrational exuberance of the books author in touting the benefits and applicability of the Long Tail. He highlights a number of over-exuberant statements made in the book and gives a “wag of the finger” to Cris Anderson for not pointing out the many limitations of the theory. This set off a running debate between the two balding media titans and lots of other voices in the Blogosphere have chimed in.
Cris Anderson replied here and declared victory in his dust-up with Lee Gomes here. His basic rebuttal was that despite all the research, Lee Gomes doesnt really know what he’s talking about, doesnt understand math and should re-read the whole book (preferably a new copy). He also gives the knife a little twist and points out that Lee doesnt have a blog of his own in which to really enter the dabate but is left attempting to respond from the sidelines, via a technologically savvy proxies.
A few lessons to come out of this little tempest in a teapot were 1) If your gonna pick a fight with a blogger you need to have a blog. 2) When hyping a book remember not to believe your own BS and have a better response then “its just BS from the jacket cover” when someone calls you on it. 3) “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!