copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert
The Long Tail theory is a novel economic concept for some. For others, it is the notion that enables them to be “strong.” The premise of the Long Tail philosophy is, there is an audience for any product, or Presidential hopeful. Senator Clinton correctly claims there is interest in her campaign. People want her to be the next Commander-In-Chief. Tis true. People will always desire what they can have, not all the people, but quite a few. There is a market for those given a forum. Any press is good. The media, with its subtle and significant messages, mantras repeated on airwaves, and pronouncements presented in print move the masses. Consumers or constituencies will always purchase whatever is available.
If a name appears on a ballot, or on an index of products, people will procure whatever it is they feel an affinity for. In the Pennsylvania primary, Republican candidate Ron Paul received sixteen percent [16%] of the vote. Months after the Texas Congressman officially removed himself from the race, Doctor Paul realized attention. Regardless of the lack of coverage in April 2008, voters came out in support of the man who now has 21 pledged delegates.
In the same April 22, Keystone State primary, Mike Huckabee, who also distanced himself from consideration early in March, was granted eleven [11%] of the Republican tally. In Mississippi, the Governor from Arkansas saw that thirteen percent preferred his candidacy. The Long Tail philosophy tells us if a candidate or a commodity is made available to the public, the population will buy the person or a piece of equipment.
An item will sell if people have access to it. The more attention given to “goods,” even those of questionable quality, the more marketable the article will be. After all, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
When a person seeks a partner, he or she may state a preference for blondes. Others yearn for brunettes. Redheads are favored by a few. Perchance, if people were more familiar with those whose tops are carrot-colored, more would wish for people bequeathed that luscious lovely mane. Humans are attracted to the tall, the thin, the petite, or the proud. Power is, for some an aphrodisiac. Money melts several hearts. Food may be the way to a man’s or a woman’s stomach.
Diners delight when presented with steak, fish, chicken, or vegetable. Some like it hot. Several think raw is really great. By choice, people purchase science fiction stories, or romance novels. Other individuals crave a factual content. Imaginary tales fill the shelves of those who wish to be entertained by text. As Chris Anderson, Editor-In-Chief of Wired Magazine discovered, someone will always want something, or someone.
In 1988, a British mountain climber named Joe Simpson wrote a book called Touching the Void, a harrowing account of near death in the Peruvian Andes. It got good reviews but, only a modest success, it was soon forgotten. Then, a decade later, a strange thing happened. Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air, another book about a mountain-climbing tragedy, which became a publishing sensation. Suddenly Touching the Void started to sell again.
Random House rushed out a new edition to keep up with demand. Booksellers began to promote it next to their Into Thin Air displays, and sales rose further. A revised paperback edition, which came out in January, spent 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. That same month, IFC Films released a docudrama of the story to critical acclaim. Now Touching the Void outsells Into Thin Air more than two to one.
What happened? In short, Amazon.com recommendations. The online bookseller’s software noted patterns in buying behavior and suggested that readers who liked Into Thin Air would also like Touching the Void. People took the suggestion, agreed wholeheartedly, wrote rhapsodic reviews. More sales, more algorithm-fueled recommendations, and the positive feedback loop kicked in.
Particularly notable is that when Krakauer’s book hit shelves, Simpson’s was nearly out of print. A few years ago, readers of Krakauer would never even have learned about Simpson’s book – and if they had, they wouldn’t have been able to find it. Amazon changed that. It created the Touching the Void phenomenon by combining infinite shelf space with real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. The result: rising demand for an obscure book.
This is not just a virtue of online booksellers; it is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power.
The strength seen in sales is also evident on the campaign trail. A popular book may be no better than a poor tome. Nevertheless, if an audience can be created, hype will help sell a sensation.
A candidate can capitalize on this truth. They can choose to promote the pronouncement, they personally support, or they may just accept the principles they espouse are important. The arguments differ. A Presidential aspirant can acknowledge the strength of union, and avow the need for the country to work as a whole. A philosophical leader can endeavor to establish justice for all, or an individual may assert that they are the people’s choice, and indeed, create a market for them. The latter may use endorsements to split the electorate, and perhaps the nation.
A Presidential hopeful may posture that his or her intent is honorable. However, voters might inquire are individual wants served, or is the priority the people, as one, united.
The former First Lady has concluded, “Obama supporters want me to lose.” Senator Clinton told America, for her, this campaign is “personal.” Perchance, if the nation is to be united, if we, the people are to vote for the principles that will give rise to accord, citizens must accept what a candidate will not. This election is not about a candidate and people’s right to vote for a person. The economy, while often-considered issue number one, will not grow if we work on the sales strategy for a sole campaigner. Yes, Hillary Clinton, if you are on the ballot, if you build a campaign, people will come to you. Possibly, if we as a country are to survive, it would be best if we built a coalition. Imagine, the Long Tail theory could give birth to freedom and democracy for all, not for the few, or for one woman and her feverish followers.
The Long Tail Wags . . .
- Long Tail 101. By Chris Anderson. The Long Tail.
- Clinton Vows To Stay in Race To Convention, She Stresses Finding Solution On Michigan, Florida Votes. By Perry Bacon Jr. and Anne E. Kornblut. Washington Post. ?Sunday, March 30, 2008; A01
- Paul Ends His Campaign. Washington Post. ?Sunday, March 8, 2008; A01
- Ron Paul, Election Center Primaries and Caucuses. Cable News Network.
- Mike Huckabee, Election Center Primaries and Caucuses. Cable News Network.
- Huckabee Drops Out of GOP Race. CBS News. March 4, 2008
- Clinton: “Obama supporters want me to lose.” By Dan Carmalt. Talking Points Memo. February 26, 2008, 3:17PM
- Clinton fights back tears: ‘It’s not easy,’ By Ben smith. Politico. January 7, 2008
- An Exhausted Clinton Tears Up, By James Pindell. Boston Globe. January 7, 2008
- Settling Scores. If Hillary Clinton finds a way to win, she’ll have a long list of grudges and grievances. By Eleanor Clift. Newsweek. April 25, 2008