Popularity vs. Quality: Is the Long Tail Full of Crap?

Ironically, the Long Tail meme, though popular, is feeling quite a bit of pushback from folks who didn’t glom onto the idea like I did. The complaints usually include a resistance to the quality-popularity relationship. Nobody wants to admit that most popular things are of higher quality.

In his latest post entitled Isn’t the Long Tail Full of Crap? Anderson addresses this concern excellently.

When Chris Anderson wrote the original Long Tail article I immediately emailed him and told him that I thought it was excellent. My email was probably one sentence long: I just wanted him to know that I dug it. (I don’t think there are enough pats on the back in this world).

Ironically, the Long Tail meme, though popular, is feeling quite a bit of pushback from folks who didn’t glom onto the idea like I did. The complaints usually include a resistance to the quality-popularity relationship. Nobody wants to admit that most popular things are of higher quality.

In his latest post entitled Isn’t the Long Tail Full of Crap? Anderson addresses this concern excellently. He points out that yes, there is a whole bunch of junk out there on the long tail, but there are also a few diamonds in the rough. He also points out that popular things usually are of higher quality, but not necessarily the best quality. This was the light bulb for me, and the first thing that came into my head was Albert Einstein. If we look at the popularity of his papers, they are minimal. The vast majority of people on Earth have never read them, not even one of them. They are so far down on the long tail that I wonder if the number of people who actually read them each year is in the thousands (as opposed to the tens of thousands or millions). In fact, we don’t really even care about them anymore. We only care about the implications of them. The ideas in them, though, have wrought his place in history next to only a few other individuals. But talk about high quality!

Read Anderson’s full post, especially if you’re hesitant about the whole quality/popularity thing. I highly recommend it.

Published: May 24th, 2005

Currently working on:

The What to Wear Daily Report: The most informative 30 seconds of your day. An email that delivers clothing recommendations and other helpful info based on the weather. Remarkably useful. It's free to sign up.