Thursday, July 18, 2013

Content Curation, The Long Tail, & the Economics of Abundance

The rise of technology culture and the internet economy changed everything we know about classic rules of supply and demand. And that is nowhere more true than with digital products and digital marketing that changed the way products could be accessed and consumed. Ultimately, the future of commerce is very much connected to the idea of "selling less of more." The concept is the heart of an essay and now an engaging book called The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, who is the editor of Wired, and the visionary behind the ever-popular TEDTalks.

In studying the way companies like Apple - with applications such as iTunes - Amazon changed the accessibility of products and what could and would come to market, Anderson explains that a lack of scarcity and the economics of abundance have allowed new niche markets to flourish in ways they never could outside of a digital world. When physical stores stock their shelves, they must consider the probability of sales in choosing which products are valuable enough to be given shelf space. That reality doesn't exist for songs on iTunes or books in an Amazon warehouse - or as digital files for the Kindle - meaning the companies could stock an infinite - and increasingly smaller - supply of niche products. These small numbers of product actually represent "the long [thin] tail" on a sales curve. And it means nothing is ever so insignificant that it's unmarketable.

The concept of the economics of abundance mean that normal supply/demand rules don't apply, and that enables more niche markets to emerge and thrive. Thus, even an obscure blog for some fringe product can exist and thrive if people can access it. These niche markets are relevant to the concepts of Mavens described by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. When I first read Gladwell's book, I thought of the obscure bloggers who collected information and dispensed to a public that - because of digital accessibility - would always find their source. The issue of abundance is also significant in the work of Daniel Pink whose book A Whole New Mind argued that the rise of abundance and the lack of scarcity in markets has increased the need for right-brain thinking because vendors need to appeal more to consumers for even the most basic and useful items.

What does this mean for content curators? Well, in terms of collecting content and information, web creators and curators need simply makes themselves available for accessing their materials. Thus, the more a curator collects and distributes, the better off he is.

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