Hate the ad, love the product
Monday, February 19, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Ever see those ads on TV for a desipicable product called Head-On? The ads suck, and you know they did it deliberately because later they run an ad with a very unpleasant person saying how much the ad sucks, but they love the product. An ad for headache medicine that gives you a headache. Followed by a meta-ad (an ad about the ad) that gives you two headaches for the price of one. Oy.
I feel the same way about The Long Tail, because if you're in the "tail" it doesn't look like a tail at all. If you see yourself as outside the tail, in the head for example, it may look like a tail.
(And we all know the tail doesn't really wag the dog.)
The Long Tail metaphor helps old media people feel like they're still in charge. So does the idea of Citizen Media, because old media people are cynics about citizens, they think we're lazy couch potatoes who have never had a good idea or a noble thought, they're the smart people living the interesting lives. We're like the Gammas and Deltas in Brave New World, there are a lot of us, and our job is to consume, consume, consume -- what they tell us to.
Nice story, but that's not what's going on.
Imagine if you looked at telephones in the aggregate. So many people having so many conversations, how do you know which ones to listen to? It's so confusing! We need a metaphor. Or maybe we don't, because we live in a world with ubiquitous telephones (lost mountain climbers call home to say goodbye before they die), and really -- were there any metaphors that could explain what this ubiquity would mean in practice, when we lived in a world without telephones everywhere?
Just the same, we can't understand, in our old terms, what it means to have publishing in the hands of everyone. But it's no longer such a theoretical thing. In 1995, it was ridiculous to predict the world we live in now. It's just as ridiculous today to predict that (more) big, unprecedented change is coming.
I've only met Wired's Chris Anderson once, on a happy occasion (I was receiving an award from him!) and now I'd like to shake his hand. I've become a regular reader of his blog, and usually grimace and wince as he spouts comfort food for print journos about the new media.
I hate the ad (The Long Tail) but I love the product. Chris says he creates his own media by mixing together sources into his subscription list. He doesn't want to delegate to anyone else the job of deciding what he'll read.
There it is -- one of the key ideas of the revolution.
And even better, this is what Anderson does for a living (edit and assemble writing). So he's willing to conceive of a world where Everyman does what only The Elite could do before. That's a man with a future, imho.