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July 04, 2006


Ellen Weber

Thanks for this wonderful summary. I agree that it's a must read and also that we want choices.... For the past decade publishers and media narrowed the focus to make profit rather than to profit people. Still, I hope the choices include the media because together these two groups could change and improve the way the nation moves into the coming decade.

Brain Based Business

Frank Hecker

The author of the New Yorker review has some valid points, but he also made one major mistake that signficantly undercuts his argument: He claims that "seven of the ten all-time top-grossing films worldwide have come out since 2000". This is true only if you ignore inflation; based on
inflation-adjusted box office figures
no movie made since 2000 cracks the top ten ("Shrek 2" being the highest at number 29), and only one movie from the 1990s does so ("Titanic" at number 6).

Dave Bayless

In his review, John Cassidy wrote:

"The least convincing part of Anderson’s book is his treatment of what he calls “the short head,” the part of the curve where popular products reside. Although he acknowledges that best-selling books and blockbuster movies won’t vanish overnight, he suggests that demand for them will gradually decline: “the primary effect of the long tail is to shift our taste towards niches.”

Your hypothesis is persuasive, but, like Cassidy, I'm not sure there is much evidence to support it quite yet. Are you familiar with the work by Rajeev Kohli and Raaj Sah? In the 11/21/03 draft of a working paper (then) titled, "Market Shares: Some Power Law Results and Observations," Kohli and Sah note a general inclination for the power law curve in markets that have more brands to be "flatter" than markets with fewer brands. Even so, search costs and social contingency may ultimately limit the degree of flattening brought by an increase in variety and availability.


As an educational consultant I see the impact of the Long Tail in our schools. Teachers who used to dominate the information flow are fighting for a declining “market share” of their students’ brains.

Students are used to controlling the flow of information in their lives. They can get what they want, when they want to - store it, catalogue it, alter it, and share it. What “market share” of student attention do our schools still retain? When students walked in the door this fall, did they feel more like they’re going back in time or into their futures?

We need to bring this movement into our schools rather than compete with it for the attention of our students. After all, I’ll bet our students are more concerned about their MySpace rankings than their school’s “adequate yearly progress” on state tests.

A recent report by the Center on Education Policy entitled “Is NCLB Narrowing the Curriculum?” notes that since the passage of the NCLB, 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts have reduced the hours of instructional time spent on history, music and other subjects to make more time for reading/language arts and/or math. Twenty-seven percent of the districts reported reduced instructional time in social studies. Twenty-two reported cuts in science and twenty percent reported similar cuts in art /music. I guess the thinking is - if a subject is not tested, why teach it? Or perhaps they think that reading, writing and 'rithmetic can only happen in English or math class.

Of course these shifts in instruction fall most heavily on low performing students. As if being a struggling learner is not punishment enough, increasing numbers are pulled out of classes that offer hands-on learning and outlets for their creativity. What awaits them is likely “drill and kill’ that doesn’t sound like much fun for students or their teachers. Daily reading, writing and application of math should be common to every class. Let music students explore the mathematical elements of rhythm and then journal what they had learned.

Educational decision makers haven’t got the news that new technologies have spawned an explosion in creativity that could be harnessed to engage and support learners. They could take a lesson from the folks in Hollywood who are using innovative techniques to shore up the declining youth film audience. New Line Cinema is tapping into the creativity of their audience to promote their new film “Take the Lead” starring Antonio Banderas as a professional dancer who volunteers to teach NYC school kids all the moves.

The “Take the Lead” website includes a do-it-yourself music video maker. The viewer gets to select from a variety of images and sound styles and create their own movie trailer. They can enter it to win free stuff – like iPods. More importantly to the filmmakers - viewers can email their digital “mash-up” to friends to show off their emerging skills a music video auteur. Viral marketing at work.

Smothering struggling readers with remedial classes isn’t the answer. Instead educators might want to talk with designers of the “Take the Lead” music video maker. They said, “the goal is to encourage consumers to make a proactive decision to engage with the content… You can’t force-feed younger movie goers with traditional top down advertising…it’s all about giving these kids our trailers, our songs and letting them take control… our assets become their assets and that’s how they become fans of the movie.” Going Unconventional to Market Movies, NY Times 4.6.06

Glad to see that someone knows that engagement beats drill and kill.

For more thought on the subject check my blog “Copy/ Paste - Dedicated to relinquishing responsibility for learning to the students” http://peterpappas.blogs.com/

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I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks...

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!