The Long Tail

Chris Anderson has been the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine since 2001. He has a BS in Physics from George Washington University and studied quantum mechanics and science journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has a new book out called The Long Tail : Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. The book is about what happens when everything becomes available to everyone. It's about the economics of abundance.

It's about how consumers behave when they can choose from 60,000 DVDs at Netflix or over 3 million songs on iTunes.
He did a story in the October 2004 issue of Wired where he went to a digital jukebox company called Ecast. There he finds the 80/20 rule at work - sort of.

long tail diagram from Anderson's blogThe rule is that twenty per cent of your products generate about eighty per cent of the revenue. What he found there was that it was now less than 20%. Then he went to another online music retailer, Rhapsody. They have 1.5 million songs but in a typical month, the top thousand tracks (less than one-hundredth of one per cent of their catalog) was downloaded more than ten thousand times. And their other 1,499,000 songs? Not significant.

Any connection to education? I think there are some. I thought there were connections when I read the books that I mentioned in yesterday's entry that deal with new technologies and new delivery methods.

I think that this new book not only gives you some insight into what is molding our students (and particularly those that will be coming to us in upcoming years) but may give you pause to think before offering a plethora of options.

This may be true for course catalogs, majors and concentrations, but also for options of how content is delivered. Come to class or download the lecture, listen to the audio or view the video, or download the PDF version, or...

Take a small item like how many topic choices to offer your students. What is the difference when you offer a class a choice of 12 topics to write about versus 100 topics?

Chris Anderson also has a blog to support the book that has a more information.


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