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The Long Time Tail

I am a little behind in blogging. Last week I have went a few separate but all very interesting events. Last Friday was the Long Now Foundation's seminar The Long Time Tail by Chris Anderson with Will Hearst. Chris has introduced an influential concept of long tail. This time he has extended the concept in the time dimension. The sales of an item would decline over time. Traditionally an item would become unavailable or go out of print because it becomes uneconomical to continues to sell it. But in the world of unlimited virtual inventory with a searchable, discoverable front end, Chris discovered that the demand, though diminished, would extend well into the future. This is the same as the original long tail framework. And it applies very well to the time dimension.

The business implication? A content archive has great and untapped economic value. The implication to the consumers? We will enjoy a much wider selection of quality works. And we will be less subject to marketing hype that tries to push hits to make money in a flash of time.

Chris' presentation was full of studies of different markets. One study of Netflix users says the customers are a lot more satisfy with old movies than new movies. There is a logical explanation for this. Good movies stand the test of time. I for one are very glad to find the old collections available on the market again. For some time old Hong Kong movies have been release in VCD format, a lower quality, lower cost predecessor to DVD. Despite the lack of a searchable online front end and generally available only in a uncategorized, flea market like retail outlets, I still manage to amass a good collection great movies over time. I have fond memory of many old movies I have seen one or two times when they were released years ago. It is great to be able to enjoy them again many years later. The old releases also reportedly turning a good profit. Yet another confirmation that there is a demand of the long tail.

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