Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shriveled Head, Fattened Tail

The Grumpy Old Bookman is one of my favourite blogs. He recently discussed the concept of the "long tail", signifying the rightward tail in a bar chart where a few huge sellers in e.g. books are found near the vertical axis but most titles sell very little. Chances are that the Internet will shunt a lot of media consumers onto these often obscure titles.

Being an avid music and books fan, I find it hard to muster any sympathy for analog culture intermediaries such as record companies, agents, book publishers and store keepers of any size. Tesco or Mom & Pop off the High Street, why should I pay them for the creative work of someone else? From the perspective of information transmission, they're all just switchboxes.

Music and literature is produced and consumed on networked computers these days. I have long downloaded music, buying CD:s that I never actually play as the only available means of remunerating the artists. And I recently read my first on-screen novel, likewise buying a printed copy to pay for the pleasure. But musicians are putting PayPal buttons on their web sites. And one day we'll have decent pocket e-readers, obviating the paperback.

I foresee a future for media with no likes of Madonna or J.K. Rowling, simply because there will be no way for publishers of making the kind of serious money necessary for the marketing behind such great global successes. One day the long tail will be all there is in media, because there will be no way for anyone except the artists themselves to make big money off big sellers. I welcome that change.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Johan said...

I foresee a future for media with no likes of Madonna or J.K. Rowling, simply because there will be no way for publishers of making the kind of serious money necessary for the marketing behind such great global successes.

I doubt it, looking at how fast internet phenomena can spread. And did Bloomsbury really spend that much on marketing J.K. Rowling?

//JJ

05 May, 2006 00:43  
Anonymous Johan said...

A longer comment to this post can be found here (Swedish).

//JJ

05 May, 2006 01:44  
Blogger Martin said...

I don't know what the marketing was like for the first H. Potter book, but I certainly seem to see a lot of advertising för the guy now. Ditto Madonna.

05 May, 2006 08:34  
Blogger Johan said...

I don't have any numbers, and sure, I might be wrong, but as far as I know, the publisher didn't spend much money on marketing the first Harry Potter book(s). And the money the first books made, well, any publisher or writer sure would have been able to afford marketing after that, huh?

//JJ

05 May, 2006 08:50  
Blogger Martin said...

I'm quite fond of Potter, but I don't think his continuing success has to do with any artistic superiority, whatever that is. It's the effect of a sustained marketing effort involving a lot of salaried people. If there had been no publisher around with substantial starting captial, I believe Potter would neither have taken off the way he did nor kept selling like he has.

But what do I know about publishing? I just find it comforting to know that most professionally published writers have few readers and make no money off their work. That way I don't have to feel bad about not having published much fiction yet. Hell, this blog has a hundred daily readers. How many novelists have that?

And I like getting my art directly from the source, paying no middle man and following no mass-marketing leads. I teach my kids to avoid the product with the greatest ad visibility.

05 May, 2006 09:19  
Blogger Johan said...

I'm quite fond of Potter, but I don't think his continuing success has to do with any artistic superiority, whatever that is.

Neither do I, but I do believe that the public and the media in combination can create hypes without the help of big marketing budgets.

And I like getting my art directly from the source, paying no middle man and following no mass-marketing leads. I teach my kids to avoid the product with the greatest ad visibility.

Well, I have a few objections to that, too, but I think I will, yet again, be bothersome enough to move that diskussion to Månskensdans and the Swedish language.

//JJ

05 May, 2006 16:14  

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