from orgtheory post to hbr letter

Seriously.  So, who says we’re wasting time blogging around here?

Omar’s post on the long tail, here, makes it into the comments pages of HBR, here (copied below the fold).

Should You Invest in the Long Tail?

Dear Editor:

In her article “Should You Invest in the Long Tail?” (July–August 2008), Anita Elberse challenges Chris Anderson’s thesis that the emergence of digital distribution systems for cultural goods has rendered the blockbuster strategy obsolete. To accurately assess the validity of their positions, however, one must understand the way that culture-consuming audiences are segmented.

Anderson seems to imply that members of most culture-consuming audiences hold very delimited and select tastes, and therefore producers should reconsider their commitment to the blockbuster strategy and begin developing cultural goods with niche appeal. Elberse, drawing on William McPhee’s work, maintains that culture-consuming audiences include heavy consumers, with an appetite for all kinds of cultural goods (including niche products), and light consumers, who depend more on social cues for their cultural choices and are thus disproportionately attracted to popular products—such as blockbusters. In fact, however, Richard Peterson’s model may best approximate the way that culture-consuming audiences are segmented: into either omnivores, who consume a wide variety of cultural offerings (from both popular and niche cultures), or univores, who consume a less diverse array of cultural goods (usually only popular).

Using Peterson’s terminology, therefore, the long-tail model characterizes the culture-consuming audience as a mosaic of niche-culture univores, who would prefer niche culture to popular culture if they had the choice. This, however, does not accord with what we know. The most discerning and most avid culture-consuming audiences (usually younger and more educated) are not niche snobs but are, instead, omnivores. They may have strong, expert tastes for niche cultures, but that does not mean they disdain mass-appeal cultural goods. Less educated (and older) audiences tend to be popular-culture univores, who will not usually venture into intimidating niche-culture territory (mostly because niche cultures presuppose a certain level of cultural competence in order to be understood and enjoyed). In a world where the most active, elite portion of the audience does not shun popular products, and the bulk of the public confines itself to easy-to-decode mass culture, the blockbuster strategy will continue to be dominant.

Omar Lizardo

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana

Written by teppo

February 3, 2009 at 2:41 am

2 Responses

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  1. This is how we get Omar posts these days – copy and paste editorial letters.



    February 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  2. Another way might be to post excerpts from his papers, the titles of the papers are starting to sound like blog posts anyway, for example, “the devil as cognitive mapping.”



    February 3, 2009 at 11:14 pm

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