Friday, February 29, 2008


Today I got my hot little hands on the latest issue of Wired, and I have to say I can't wait to sink my teeth into Chris Anderson's cover story on the "cult of free." For those who don't know Anderson, he's Wired's Editor in Chief and author of the book The Long Tail, one of the most influential business books of the past decade. Normally I hate business books because so few of them actually have a point, but The Long Tail was different. Anderson argued in the book that mass culture is over, that the democratization of production and distribution has made it possible for companies (and individuals) to cater to increasingly niche markets. Consumers will arrange themselves into what he calls the long tail, increasingly smaller groups of people bound together by common interests. The great companies of the future will be the ones who can effectively identify and speak authentically to these micro-markets.
I haven't read the new article yet, but what I think Anderson is going to argue is that those same declining production and distribution costs that created the long tail are not eliminating mass culture so much as they are forcing those who want to cater to enormous audiences to offer their products and services for free (or nearly free). What they lose in traditional revenue they can make up for in advertising revenue and increased brand exposure/equity. We see this playing out in nearly every industry right now, particularly the various entertainment industries. I've gone on at length about my anger at the music industry for not realizing the potential of emerging technologies, so I won't belabor that point. But I'm very interested to hear what Anderson has to say on the subject.


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