I like thinking about things. Savouring them as I roll them around my head, tasting them, mulling over them. Ruminating. Masticating.
I like thinking about things in themes. What do I mean? Let’s take an example. A recent Harvard Business Review article asked if we should Invest in the Long Tail. Apparently, research had shown that even in a long-tail world, blockbusters continued to exist and were of significance. Chris Anderson wrote a response pointing out the importance of getting the definitions right, and showed how, in his opinion, the research was consistent with the theory. And a whole conversation started.
Reading all that set me thinking. It made me go back to the oft-quoted Clay Shirky article on Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality, serendipitously referred to a couple of days ago, in a post by Hugh Macleod on, of all things, cloud computing.
And this is what I’m thinking about:
1. In a broadcast age where the power of distribution lay in the hands of a select few, there were blockbusters.
2. In the internet age, where the power of distribution is less narrowly held, there continue to be blockbusters.
3. The blockbusters are different. They come from different motives, give rise to different opportunities, form part of different business models. Let’s call the broadcast blockbusters Type A blockbusters, and the internet blockbusters Type B blockbusters.
4. When the power of distribution is narrowly held, someone else chooses the blockbuster, then uses advertising, availability and proximity to try and self-fulfil the prophecy. Sometimes that succeeds, sometimes not. We all have our Waterworlds to bear.
5. When the power of distribution is democratised, everything changes. Now the blockbuster is about power laws rather than self-fulfilling prophecies.
The moral of the story is this: You could game a Type A blockbuster. You can’t game the Type B blockbuster. [This is what I’m thinking about; this post is as provisional as any other post I write].