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October 22, 2007

Richard Florida

Long and Short of It

« Jane Jacobs and Global Change | Main | Rise of the the Mega-Regions »

Grant McCracken takes on Chris Anderson and the Long Tail:

The Long Tail a thoroughly partial book.  As I read through a second time, I was struck by what is missing.  You give plenty of attention to aggregators like Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, eBay, and Google and pretty much ignore the rest of capitalism!  You have taken on one of the most explosive developments in contemporary capitalism...only to offer a partial view and a single solution.  It's as if you declined the larger intellectual challenge. ... What is missing in The Long Tail is the work horse of capitalism, the corporation, and the extraordinary challenges that now confronts its innovation, strategy and marketing functions.   As virtually everyone knows, the corporate world is scrambling to deal with the speed with which taste and preference now fragment and change.  In turns out, The Long Tail pipe has pretty much a single answer for exploding markets: big (or bigger) pipes. ... There are two problems with this answer.  First, there can only be a few aggregators in the world, and this limits the usefulness of this book for the rest of the world.  Second, bigger pipes isn't, in the larger order of things, really the most interesting, ambitious or canny solution. What the "aggregator answer" ignores are the real challenges that exist as a single corporation learns how to be many things to many people, how it makes the boundary of the corporation more porous, letting the world in and innovation out, how it escapes the inevitable gravitational field created by the corporate culture, how it accomplishes some kind of continuity in the face of its external and increasing internal discontinuity. ... The scope of this book is smaller than I realizeIt seems to be that The Long Tail treats an astonishing problem, with a narrow, partial, and one might even say provincial response.

Anderson responds in the comments section of McCracken's blog.

Seems to me McCracken is onto something.  Sure individuals have more choice, but consumption still follows broad patterns.  My travels around the world - and our research on markets and consumption - convince me that the global creative class increasingly wears the same clothes, drives the saame cars, eats the same food, shops for the same brands and so on. The tail of the distribution plays its role, but I think Grant is right that it's important to keep focussed on the big fat middle.


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