The long tail, shortened from 57 per cent to… about 20 per

Charles Arthur posts a nice piece on the Long Tail not being quite so long after all:

It seems the Long Tail©™® so beloved of Chris Anderson at Wired isn’t quite so long or tail-y after all. Here, he recants. A bit.

..research with aggressive assumptions puts the Long Tail (titles beyond the top 100,000) at 36% of Amazon’s book sales. Conservative assumptions, meanwhile, put it under 20%. Cross-checking it against Amazon’s book revenues seems to suggest something in the mid-to-high twenties. In either case, it’s certainly less than 57% and even 39%. But the Long Tail still appears to be somewhere between a quarter and a third of Amazon’s book business, which is a significant fraction by any measure.

Well, it’s quite a comedown for the digital age. It turns out that all those dreams of the superniche online world have turned to dust, shattered by some more careful work using the back of a larger envelope. Tch. Pity.

I’ve always been more than a little suspicious of the claims of Long Tail advocates, partly because it smelled to me like one of those principles (like the Long Boom) that were driven more by wishful thinking than actual evidence.