Articles of Interest

  • I highly recommend that anyone interested in digital distribution (and/or the long tail) read this NYTimes article, “Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?” Quick summary: researchers at Columbia University have found that social influence systems (i.e. portals built around user rankings) tend to be highly unpredictable (as opposed to highly efficient at identifying the “best” content.) The researchers attribute this to the ultimately overwhelming impact of the few people who first encounter new content. In other words: social influence systems (like are not the stock market — you can’t count on an “objective and reasonable” valuation of all content, even over long periods of time. That said, it’s not clear this is a “problem”, though it is certainly relevant to the issues discussed in my recent long tail post.
  • Some good (hardware-related) news for Xbox last week. Walmart is getting behind HD-DVD (to the tune of 2M units) and “incremental shoppers” (i.e. those not interested in a Core or Premium 360) seem to be showing interest in the 360 Elite.
  • Nice post by Henry about what he calls “spreadable media” — basically, media designed to be circulated, sliced up, remixed, etc. Some good examples of do’s (i.e. Steven Colbert’s decision to make non-aired interview material available to fans online) and don’ts (Veronica Mars asks fans to make shorts promoting the show, but forbids them to use material from the show. Blech.) I really owe it to Henry for broadening my thinking about participatory culture; coincidentally, the subject of my last post.
  • In the “ironic timing” category, just as everyone is rushing to blame video games for the Virginia Tech tradgedy, the British Board of Film Classification has unveiled research indicating that violent games are less influential than their film/TV counterparts.

4 responses to “Articles of Interest

  1. >tend to be highly unpredictable (as opposed to highly efficient…

    Are the two necesarily mutually exclusive? I think not. In fact, I’d say unpredictability is *fine* so long as you have efficiency.

    e.g. If I were a network selling TV ad spots, and had no idea which show was going to be the big-ticket item, that’d be a problem if I had an ad-sales cycle that required 3 months lead time. However, if I had an efficient system where I sold ads only a week out to air time, then it’s a non issue.

  2. > Are the two necesarily mutually exclusive? I think not.

    The two aren’t “necessarily mutually exclusive,” but the article is saying that in *this* case, they are. Read the article and come to your own conclusions. They define “quality” in a very specific way.

    Note that they aren’t implying unpredictability == lower profit. People still buy. The question is simply: what are they buying? You presumably don’t care when you say efficiency is all that matters, and from a pure business perspective, that might be an acceptable stance. But I’d prefer to think through the implications. 🙂

    Like I wrote earlier, this isn’t necessarily a “problem,” but it is an interesting phenomenon worth thinking about.

  3. It sounds like an opportunity instead of a problem. The fashion industry, to which Timberlake is somewhat emblematic, makes the majority of its profits off of a series of successive waves of what could be described as bubble-hype driven by the unpredictable tastes of a core of early adopters. Music is like this to a lesser extent. The chaos itself is what drives the market. I think this could become increasingly true of the patterns surrounding the peak concurrency and subsequent half-life of web-based multiplayer games/communities.

  4. Nice post by Henry about what he calls “spreadable media” — basically, media designed to be circulated, sliced up, remixed, etc.

    New name, old game: memetics. I’ve been writing an article on “memetic marketing” for around six years. It’s still not good to go…

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