[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]
One of the more well-marketed 'Web pronouncements" is the "the long tail," referring to a graph depicting consumer behavior online, with a high front hump, followed by a long, flatter tail. First coined in an article by Chris Anderson of WIRED magazine, it later became a book.
Anderson predicted that niche consumerism would prevail in an era of unlimited choice online, and the olden days of one or two major blockbusters were over.
But a recent paper in the Harvard Business Review claims the Web has made no difference: When it comes to consumption, we continue to exhibit herd mentality.
For instance, within Rhapsody, a music sharing site, the top 10 percent of tracks represented 78 percent of all plays. And for Quickflix movie rentals, the top 10 percent of all titles accounted for 48 percent of all rentals.
Those who do search for obscure treasures were people who bought more overall—including the blockbusters.
The data states the obvious: More choice leads to more buying, but more options doesn't mean our desire for the coolest thing goes away.
In a lovely, ironic twist, the researcher points to a best-selling business book as an example of concentrated high sales of popular items, it is, of course, the book that inspired her in the first place: Anderson's The Long Tail.