How long is the Long Tail?

We all know about the groundbreaking work from Chris Anderson from Wired about the Long Tail. In theory it makes a ton of sense - on the web, companies have no inventory costs and can stock as many titles or products as possible and that over time the one-offs or misses can generate as much or more sales than the hits.  As you can imagine, this Long Tail meme gets mentioned by many an entrepreneur that I meet and saying "we are going after the long tail of X" is almost as popular as saying "I'm a Web 2.0 company."  I have not read the book or the data, but as I said, in theory it sounds great.  You could even extend this long tail concept to user generated content.  For example, YouTube could be like the long tail of video - people get to see new content which would never sell at any traditional bricks and mortars store and YouTube has the opportunity to make money off all of this Long Tail content.

As for the Long Tail, the only question one can ask is when will it happen vs. if it makes sense or not.  In today's Wall Street Journal, Lee Gomes (see his article here - sorry, requires login) challenges the timing of the Long Tail and comes up with some interesting data.

"By Mr. Anderson's calculation, 25% of Amazon's sales are from it's tail, as they involve books you can't find at a traditional retailer.  But using another analysis of those numbers - an analysis that Mr. Anderson argues isn't meaningful - you can show that 2.7% of Amazon's titles produce a whopping 75% of its revenues.  Not quite as impressive.

Another theme of the book is that "hits are starting to rule less."  But when I looked online, I was surprised to see what seemed like the opposite.  Ecast says 10% of its songs account for roughly 90% of its streams; monthly data from Rhapsody showed the top 10% songs getting 86% of streams."

Lee has a few other examples and one of the most interesting ones is when he states that when Chris looked at the data 2 years ago for eCast that 2% of songs did not play every quarter and now with a much larger inventory that number has risen to 12%.  Maybe eCast just had the hits up in the first place?  In short, Lee Gomes concludes that the Long Tail may be true but it will also take a long time before it happens.

From my perspective, I do believe we still live in a hits driven world but that it is definitely changing.  In addition, if you apply the concept of the Long Tail more broadly to concepts ike YouTube, etc. then it is happening today. Regardless of what you think, Lee's article is one of the few that I have seen challenging the Long Tail meme that we all want to believe.

UPDATE: Since I posted from the train this morning and have been in meetings for most of the day, I did not get to see Chris Anderson's thoughtful response to Lee Gomes. Here is an excerpt from Chris' post:

What it does say is that the current data at Rhapsody, Netflix and Amazon show that the tail amounts to between 21% and 40% of the market, with the head accounting for the rest. Although I don't discuss this in detail in the book, in the case of Rhapsody, the trend data suggests that the tail (as defined above) actually will equal the head within five years. Which is why the language Gomes cites from the book jacket is actually all phrased in the future conditional tense ("What happens when the combined value of all the millions of items that may sell only a few copies equals or exceeds the value of a few items that sell millions each?"). I asked him to quote the jacket copy in full context, but it apparently wasn't convenient to his thesis to do so, so he didn't.

From this post, it seems that Lee misquoted Chris and that Chris agrees that it will take some time for the Long Tail to outsell the hits.

UPDATE 2 - Please read Lee Gomes' comment to my blog post below where he clarifies his thinking on the article and stands firm on his position especially in relation to Chris Anderson's rebuttal and my commentary where I suggest that he may have misquoted Chris about the impact of the Long Tail. 

Ed, I usually don't respond to blogs, not because I don't value them enormously -- I do -- but simply because I write for a pretty big outlet myself, and think that once I have my say about something, I should shut up and let others have theirs. I need to comment, though, on your suggestion that I might have misquoted Chris. As I hope you appreciate, that is one of the worst things a journalist can do, even (or especially) when writing about a person whose views are being subject to scrutiny.

Here is how I described the book's premise about this matter: "In the book's main sections, Mr. Anderson writes that as things move online, sales of misses will increase -- so much so that they can equal or exceed the sales of hits." Note that it is written in the future conditional tense, exactly like Chris says own his sentence is. I never said that Chris said that misses were currently outselling hits; my point was simply that considering all the to-do he makes about this in the book, I was a little surprised that he didn't have any current examples. Had I had more space than I do for my column, which recall runs in the print paper and thus is limited to around 850 words, I would have happily quoted Chris' entire sentence, as well as this other one from the jacket. "Using the worlds of movies, books, and music, he showed how the Internet has made possible a new world in which the combined value of modest sellers and quirky titles equals the sales of top hits."

As for the suggestion, not yours, that I misunderstood Chris' methodology: I know perfectly well how he made the calculations he did, and explained them (I hope) very clearly in my piece. I added, though, that there was another way of looking at those same number, making it clear to my readers that Chris did not think that second method was meaningful. At least I gave readers a choice between two methods; the book didn’t even acknowledge that some other method existed.

Thanks for letting me have my say, Ed.
Lee Gomes
Wall Street Journal

Ok-this is done and I thank Lee for questioning the Long Tail meme and stirring the pot as I believe this healthy debate will only improve our thinking and analysis around this concept.  Of course, I am curious to see the how the data around the Long Tail evolves as time passes as this transparency will help all of us get a better understanding of the timing and true impact of the tail in certain markets.

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10 Responses to “How long is the Long Tail?”

  1. P-Air Jul 26, 2006 at 1:53 pm #

    Ed, you might want to read Chris’ response to the Gomes piece. He clarifies certain points which are noteworthy. I’m not trying to support Chris, but if someone is going to come after his work, they should do so w/a better understanding of the underlying statistics and perspectives that Chris has laid out.

    Here’s the link to Chris’ response:
    link to longtail.com

  2. LeeGomes Jul 26, 2006 at 10:15 pm #

    Ed, I usually don’t respond to blogs, not because I don’t value them enormously — I do — but simply because I write for a pretty big outlet myself, and think that once I have my say about something, I should shut up and let others have theirs. I need to comment, though, on your suggestion that I might have misquoted Chris. As I hope you appreciate, that is one of the worst things a journalist can do, even (or especially) when writing about a person whose views are being subject to scrutiny.

    Here is how I described the book’s premise about this matter: “In the book’s main sections, Mr. Anderson writes that as things move online, sales of misses will increase — so much so that they can equal or exceed the sales of hits.” Note that it is written in the future conditional tense, exactly like Chris says own his sentence is. I never said that Chris said that misses were currently outselling hits; my point was simply that considering all the to-do he makes about this in the book, I was a little surprised that he didn’t have any current examples. Had I had more space than I do for my column, which recall runs in the print paper and thus is limited to around 850 words, I would have happily quoted Chris’ entire sentence, as well as this other one from the jacket. “Using the worlds of movies, books, and music, he showed how the Internet has made possible a new world in which the combined value of modest sellers and quirky titles equals the sales of top hits.”

    As for the suggestion, not yours, that I misunderstood Chris’ methodology: I know perfectly well how he made the calculations he did, and explained them (I hope) very clearly in my piece. I added, though, that there was another way of looking at those same number, making it clear to my readers that Chris did not think that second method was meaningful. At least I gave readers a choice between two methods; the book didn’t even acknowledge that some other method existed.

    Thanks for letting me have my say, Ed.
    Lee Gomes
    Wall Street Journal

  3. Dean Fragnito Jul 27, 2006 at 7:40 am #

    If a tail grows larger than its head is it still a tail, and is the head still a head?

    Can there be two heads? After all two heads are better than one.

  4. Ed Sim Jul 27, 2006 at 9:22 am #

    That is precisely the conundrum – do you use percentages (Top 10%) or numbers, Top 100. As you know, if you use numbers like the Top 100 and the tail gets bigger then it is very likely that the tail will outsell the Top 100 eventually. If you use percentages and say Top 10%, since the number of titles in the library grows and therefore the number of titles in the Top 10% grows as well, that may very well take a lot longer to achieve than outselling the Top 100.

  5. sigma Jul 27, 2006 at 5:08 pm #

    Ed,

    It may be that part of the ‘long tail’ you have wanted to find
    is not very visible yet, but a lot of the long tail is visible
    today, some of it right in front of you. Yes, cherry makes
    gorgeous furniture so that someone wandering in a lush forest
    of pine converting to oak and hickory and seeing no cherry may
    conclude that there are no trees?

    You mentioned Amazon: E.g., I’ve bought books from Amazon,
    but nearly all of them have been from way, way out in the long
    tail. E.g., I believe that my most recent book from them was

    Albert N. Shiryaev, ‘Essentials of Stochastic Finance: Facts,
    Models, Theory’, ISBN 981-02-3605-0, World Scientific
    Publishing, New Jersey, 2003.

    Nice book but not a big seller! For some of why, one
    prerequisite is, say,

    Ioannis Karatzas and Steven E. Shreve, ‘Brownian Motion and
    Stochastic Calculus, Second Edition’, ISBN 0-387-97655-8,
    Springer-Verlag, New York, 1994.

    for which a prerequisite is, say, the first half of

    Walter Rudin, ‘Real and Complex Analysis’, ISBN 07-054232-5,
    McGraw-Hill, New York, 1966.

    for which good prior reading includes, say, all but the
    multi-linear algebra of

    Paul R. Halmos, ‘Finite-Dimensional Vector Spaces, Second
    Edition’, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., Princeton, New
    Jersey, 1958.

    and all but the E. Cartan exterior algebra of

    Wendell H. Fleming, ‘Functions of Several Variables’,
    Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1965.

    Uh, people interested in the fancy approach to general
    relativity should read all of these last two books!

    In mathematical finance, possibly of interest in parts of SW
    Connecticut and Long Island, in some of the US vernacular,
    Shiryaev (a Kolmogorov student!) and also known for

    R. S. Lipster and A. N. Shiryayev, ‘Statistics of Random
    Processes I: General Theory’, ISBN 0-387-90226-0,
    Springer-Verlag, New York, 1977.

    R. S. Lipster and A. N. Shiryayev, ‘Statistics of Random
    Processes II: Applications’, ISBN 0-387-90236-0,
    Springer-Verlag, New York, 1978.

    is ‘the man’, but the prerequisites will discourage some
    people.

    For me, this situation of the long tail is general: My
    personal library of books and music (recordings, scores) takes
    up most of the storage space in four rooms, and nearly every
    item is from way out in the long tail. E.g., when I listen to
    my CD of Heifetz playing the Sibelius concerto, I get to
    follow along with the score and get to see just how much
    Heifetz did that is not explicit in the score! When I play
    some of the passages on my violin, what he did gets more
    amazing!

    ‘Pop culture’? Will have a tough time selling me ANY of it.
    I had MORE than enough from my time in Memphis. E.g., not
    interested in self-mutilation, via body piercing, tattoos, or
    otherwise. E.g., from a few random glances of a few seconds
    each on TV, it looks like Britney Spears was a pretty teenage
    girl, but I have never heard any of her singing. E.g.,
    programs have come on prime time TV, been very popular for
    years, returned as reruns for years, more than once, without
    my ever watching a single episode! Ah, the burden of those
    prerequisites! So, for the long tail and the ‘head’, some
    people have relatively little interest in the head.

    For you, some of the long tail is right in front of you:
    There are maybe a few tens of thousands of people in the US
    with a serious interest in all three of ‘information
    technology’ (IT), starting businesses in IT, and venture
    capital. So, for the ‘media’, this interest is definitely out
    in the long tail. Since your blog is an example of this
    interest, it, too, is in the long tail. You are looking right
    at part of the long tail — your blog.

    The long tail has many tiny niches. Here is such a niche with
    some lessons about the long tail: Some years ago, a friend
    and I considered starting a company to make relatively simple
    high performance sports cars. I got to be a Full Member of
    the SAE (due mostly to my background with airplanes — right,
    Memphis) and did some first-cut engineering and business
    planning. We got a tour of the company that made the
    composite bodies for the original Corvette; the person leading
    the tour was one of the main engineers on that work; clearly
    they could make nice body parts for us!

    For that project, in the end I noticed the need for a lot of
    each of engineering and testing, manufacturing space and
    tools, supplies and inventory, work with steel, aluminum,
    composites, etc., legal efforts, marketing and service
    efforts, and beating competition and concluded that the
    project was a close call, an okay but not big financial
    opportunity. Also stood to go through quite a lot of time,
    money, and effort before getting much revenue.

    My partner offered to take the first car we built. When I
    told him that he was being VERY generous, he was shocked at my
    view of the first car! But I had read F. Brooks where he
    said, “Plan to throw one away — you will anyhow.” Well, at
    times had to wish that Brooks had thrown away IBM’s JCL! My
    friend went on to another project, an aluminum yacht nicely
    over 50 feet. In the end he was surprised to discover that
    Brooks had been correct. Since I already had a background in
    IT, I just returned to IT!

    Occasionally I did more with that car project: Once I wrote
    some software to simulate acceleration by a fairly careful
    solution to Newton’s second law F = ma with fairly careful
    automotive details. So, given engine torque, gear ratios,
    vehicle weight, etc., can calculate acceleration times. Works
    nicely for anything that has much chance of being driven on
    the street. Once I guessed that could find the stiffness of
    space frames by using the implicit function theorem and
    multidimensional Newton iteration, so typed the mathematics
    into TeX, typed the software into PL/I (terrific for that
    problem!), tried it, and saw that it worked nicely! So, can
    use this software to calculate the stiffness of automotive
    space frames. Maybe I’ll do something similar for suspension
    geometry, stiffness of solid objects, and aerodynamic
    stability. So far didn’t “throw away” either software effort
    or a sports car or a yacht!

    Yesterday I happened to see a link to Factory Five Racing.
    They are apparently a NICE example of being successful with
    what my friend and I had in mind! Maybe I was too
    pessimistic? Apparently they have done quite well with a Ford
    Cobra and now have moved on to a mid-engine car. Their key
    techniques: Use a fairly simple welded tube steel space frame
    (I was thinking aluminum, but steel is good enough). For the
    interior panels, use just flat sheets of aluminum (I was
    thinking sandwiches of balsa, but just sheets are good
    enough). For the exterior surfaces, use hand laid composite
    just bolted to the frame (what we saw on the tour). Keep the
    car light, dry weight about 2100 pounds. Mechanically, keep
    the car dirt simple (start by thinking high end go kart but
    with a V8 engine, a body, and street legal lights, brakes,
    etc.) which is a BIG help in keeping the car light, fast, and
    cheap. In that narrow market niche, fast and cheap sell and
    also trump concerns about simple. Use a Detroit V8 engine
    with high but not wildly high performance. Can do well with
    just a cast iron small block; don’t have to use an all
    aluminum block over 500 cubic inches with turbo-charging and
    inter-cooling (which can need more fuel than the usual
    injectors can supply and which makes transmission selection
    more difficult). For nearly all the other parts, use just
    common off the shelf (e.g., since the car is so light, don’t
    need high end brakes). In particular, for a Cobra, for most
    of the parts, get, say, two wrecked late model Ford Mustangs
    (one wrecked in the front, one in the back!). The really high
    performance comes from the simplicity and the resulting light
    weight. E.g., a 2200 pound car with 300 rear wheel horsepower
    can have better 0-60 MPH and 1/4 times than famous cars
    costing $500,000. For marketing, start with the car magazines
    and then have a ‘car club’ where people can meet similar
    people! From two hours on the Internet yesterday, some nice
    lessons!

    There are two examples of the long tail here: First, I just
    stumbled onto Factor Five Racing. I should have known about
    them a long time ago. They are out in the long tail of the US
    economy. Second, they have some nice information on their
    engineering — including some nice video clips — which is out
    in the long tail of engineering and the media.

    Yes, in business, it is crucial to concentrate on revenue.
    So, one view of the long tail is that there will be more
    revenue in the least popular 90% of the instances than in the
    most popular 10%. It seems that this situation has not
    happened widely yet and that, as a result, you are concluding
    that the business opportunities of the long tail are still in
    the future. I beg to differ; let’s continue:

    Okay, there is a question here: How would I have known about
    Factory Five Racing, not just as a company selling products
    but also as a subject in, say, my interests in automotive
    engineering and business? How? Hmm ….

    For more, in violin, how the heck would I finger some of those
    passages in the Sibelius concerto? Is there a video of
    Heifetz playing that concerto? When I worked through the Bach
    E major Prelude, I did the bariolage passages with fingers 1
    and 2 and no actual ‘shifts’ of the hand. When I played for
    my teacher, he asked, “How much do I owe you for that
    fingering?”. How would others find that fingering?

    In this way we can formulate a general question: Given a
    person and one of their interests, possibly out in the long
    tail of the media, the economy, technology, the arts, etc.,
    how can that person find instances they would value highly?
    How? Hmm ….

    Let’s see what people are doing now: The really good video
    clips on YouTube, etc. are not so easy to find. Some of the
    clips are so good and so difficult to find that old media is
    now commonly running ‘stories’ of the form, “Look at this
    great YouTube video clip on ….”. Here old media is guessing
    that they have found a clip of broad interest. Okay, but,
    especially in the long tail, there is also the serious matter
    of more focused personal interests. E.g., for all of the
    power of Google, if a person is interested in all of IT,
    business start-ups in IT, and venture capital for such
    start-ups, then one source of links to instances that might be
    valued highly is just the right margin of the home page of
    your blog. No doubt you put these links on your home page
    because such links are not so easy to find. You are correct;
    the links are not so easy to find. People used to do such
    things before Google. Now, Google is not doing well letting
    people find what they would value highly out in the long tail,
    especially in new media, and people are putting up lists of
    favorite links again.

    Maybe a music school professor has a video clip, in slow
    motion, of some of the fingering for some of the more
    challenging passages in the Sibelius concerto? A video of
    Perlman playing the illustrative passages in Galamian’s book?
    Maybe a professor of mechanical engineering has a video of a
    great lecture on the finite element method in automotive frame
    design or on automotive aerodynamic stability? Maybe an
    engineer at a tire company has a terrific video clip, with
    information TOUGH to get elsewhere, on sports car suspension
    design and tire selection. Maybe a computer science professor
    has a video clip of a nice lecture on monotone locking
    protocols or ways to do ‘behavioral monitoring’ of computer
    servers and digital communications networks with known
    adjustable rates of false positives and some good asymptotic
    results on rates of false negatives?

    Broadly, then, instances of new media out in the long tail
    that a person would value highly for one of their interests
    are not easy to find.

    In this way, we have identified a problem in the long tail;
    let’s formulate it: People need a good way to help them find
    those instances they would value highly as they pursue their
    personal interests — e.g., long tail topics in business,
    engineering, the arts. Such a Web site should generate a lot
    of traffic. There should be opportunities for focused
    advertising. So, maybe the professor who did the video clip
    on playing the Sibelius concerto didn’t get much revenue, but
    maybe the Web site that let someone find that clip got some
    revenue from an ad by someone selling tickets to Tanglewood or
    repairing violins.

    In all of this, the person’s interests are crucial. There are
    some severe challenges here: E.g., in the arts, how to find
    instances the person would value highly?

    Google has been a revolution in civilization. So, revolutions
    really are possible. But much more is needed.

    I submit that the long tail is important now, is rising in
    importance quickly, and will be of overwhelming importance
    quite broadly, that the long tail will liberate us from the
    tyranny of the least common denominator, “great wasteland”,
    and finding needles we want in huge haystacks and be a
    revolution in information and progress in the economy and
    civilization. But all along, right on the boundary of what is
    feasible, we will have to look carefully to see the
    opportunities. We may have to take advantage of the oak or
    hickory when what we really had in mind was cherry.

  6. Muskie Jul 30, 2006 at 8:22 pm #

    I swear that was the longest blog comment I have ever read. I’m not even sure you addressed the controversy over who said what when. Who said what when is a problem I’m very familiar with.

    I’m a believer in the Long Tail as far as me being a Long Tail consumer. What I buy is in the Long Tail and if retailers (online) realize this and cater to me more they have my blessing. I’ve spent years looking for albums or books that were out of print.

    As for YouTube it seems to have a lot of T&A or whatever the male equivalent is. I’ve never even thought of searching for engineering lectures or instructional videos for instruments. No one has ever directed me to any videos like that either…

  7. Vincent Rais Jul 31, 2006 at 12:30 pm #

    Personally, I believe the long tail will be made up of now-hits, and replace the misses bit by bit. Not a lot of providers are willing to write a blank check for disk arrays, and the space they take up in the data center. After all, if I know that 10,000 ‘misses’ account for 20 square meters in the data center, the necessary power etc, and 15,000 Gigs of disk space, and if I also know that the combined total of these misses account for x in revenue, the calculation is easily made whether to offer these flicks or not. A tail made out of previous hits, will surely generate more long-term revenue. Hence the debate seems too academic. Market forces will turn the tail into a collection of proven, ex-hits. Niche players will pick up on the misses -probably the producers of ‘misses’ themselves who will sell directly to end users.

  8. Harsh Jul 31, 2006 at 4:30 pm #

    Ed,

    Interesting discussion there. I don’t know if you came across this post from Ajit Jaokar that talks about the ‘long tail’ and revenue models for web 2.0.

    link to opengardensblog.futuretext.com

  9. sigma Aug 1, 2006 at 8:41 pm #

    Muskie,

    Ed wrote

    “As for the Long Tail, the only question one can ask is when
    will it happen vs. if it makes sense or not.”

    So he is questioning WHEN the long tail will happen. By
    “happen” he may mostly mean when some information technology
    company selling products in the long tail will be a good
    venture capital investment.

    You mentioned that YouTube has a lot of junk. Here you are
    adding importance to the problem I tried to identify: For a
    person to find instances of new media, including videos, that
    they would value highly is too difficult. Better means are
    needed.

    Not everything on YouTube is junk: E.g., as of July 29th,
    2006 at

    link to news.com.com

    was a CNET article on 10 video clips on YouTube that CNET
    found likely of broad interest. Some of the clips were good.

    That article also illustrates my point: Of the 10 videos, I
    really liked just two: One was a play on some a recent
    description of the Internet by Senator Stevens of Alaska. The
    other was on some results of computational fluid dynamics and
    computer graphics by a professor at Stanford. The first
    illustrated again how astoundingly little some of our
    national leaders understand about the Internet. I found the
    second impressive since earlier in my career I worked with the
    Navier-Stokes equations at Carderock. So, I liked two of the
    10, 20%. So, again, finding instances of new media that a
    person would value highly for one of their interests is not
    easy and needs help.

    Not all the video on YouTube has to be junk, and not all the
    video has to be on YouTube: People can put nearly anything on
    YouTube or the similar video hosting services of Google, etc.
    Or, people can get other hosting.

    E.g., can notice the current WSJ piece:

    Moguls of New Media

    “The MySpace member with a million ‘friends.’ The receptionist
    with a production deal. Some of the Web’s amateur entertainers
    are becoming powerful players.”

    By JOHN JURGENSEN

    July 29, 2006; Page P1

    with links to videos at various sites.

    Just at YouTube, currently their home page is showing as a
    “Featured Video”

    Day of the Longtail

    “Movie Trailer: In celebration of the publication of Chris
    Anderson’s book, ‘The Long Tail,’ The old world of media faces
    an invasion from another planet. The horror. The horror. (By
    Michael Markman, Peter Hirshberg, Bob Kalsey)”

    It’s a riot, and apropos!

    There are some good technical videos on the Internet: I
    mentioned some I found on sports car engineering via the
    Factory Five Racing (FFR) Web site. I’m still trying to
    figure out how an FFR Cobra with a cast iron Ford small block
    can weigh 2100 pounds while a 2006 Corvette Z06 with a Chevy
    small block with aluminum block and heads, aluminum frame, and
    some carbon fiber body panels has to weigh 3200 pounds! In
    physics, I have some videos I found good by F. Wilczek at MIT
    and on S. Coleman’s work at Harvard.

    I am sure that there is much more on the Internet than I have
    seen and that I would value highly for some of my interests.
    E.g., as I mentioned, I only stumbled onto the Factory Five
    Racing and their information. For this “more”, too often I
    have to stumble onto the instances and need some much better
    means.

    YouTube, etc., now shows convincingly that millions of
    individuals can easily do home movie videos, alas, including
    many in bad taste.

    So, bad taste or not, we have to conclude that quite broadly
    across society people can do videos on nearly any subject in
    the long tail: There can be university course lectures,
    research seminars, research conference lectures, technical
    sales presentations, and much, much more — nearly everything
    in the long tail, and that is enormous.

    The main point in my post was to respond to Ed’s doubts about
    the opportunities in the long tail and say that it is
    important in various respects now and that there should be an
    opportunity now for an information technology start-up making
    money from the long tail — help people find what they want in
    the long tail and get paid for narrowly targeted ads.

    Again, this thread illustrates that (1) there are some good
    instances of new media on the Internet, (2) finding instances
    a person would value highly for one of their interests is not
    easy, (3) better means of finding such instances are needed.

    For ‘the vision thing’, again I believe that instances of new
    media distributed via the Internet will help break the media
    tyranny of the least common denominator, “the great
    wasteland”, etc. and be part of a revolution in civilization.
    Not small stuff. Some careful consideration is needed, but Ed
    is selling the long tail short too soon.

  10. sigma Aug 1, 2006 at 8:44 pm #

    Vincent,

    One of the keys to the rise of new media in the long tail is
    the great progress of the last decade toward really cheap disk
    space.

    You mentioned 15,000 gigabytes (GB) of disk space. Well, can
    buy SATA hard disk drives for less than $100 each that have
    200 GB of space each and put, say, three, in addition to a
    boot drive, in one thin flat 1 RU PC. Assuming 28 such PCs in
    a rack and we have

    3 * 200 * 28 = 16,800

    GB in one such rack. Such a rack is about 2′ x 2′ or 4 square
    feet.

    You mentioned space of 20 square meters, so let’s convert 4
    square feet to square meters:

    1 inch = 2.54 cm

    1 foot = 12 * 2.54 cm

    1 foot = 12 * 2.54 * (1/100) m

    1 square foot = (12 * 2.54 * (1/100))**2 square meters

    4 square feet = 4 * (12 * 2.54 * (1/100))**2 = 0.372 m**2

    So, we have about 1/3rd of a square meter and not 20 square
    meters, unless we also include space for electric power, air
    conditioning, security guards, bridge, systems management
    personnel, executive suites, executive wash room, executive
    dining room, CEO’s nap room, executive gourmet kitchen,
    quarters for executive gourmet chef and staff, executive wine
    cellar, etc., all desirable, I admit, but not really from the
    video clips!

    You also mentioned 15,000 gigabytes (GB) of disk space for
    10,000 instances of video. So, that’s 1.5 GB per video clip.
    That’s enough for a 90 minute old movie. So far commonly
    video clips are taking only about 10% of that much space.
    E.g., I have a MOV file of a clip of a F. Wilczek lecture at
    Harvard on S. Coleman’s work in quantum field theory that is
    48 minutes long; the file is 124 MB, less than 10% of your 1.5
    GB.

    For something still more common, the

    chad_vader.mp4

    at

    link to channel101.com

    is

    14.2 million bytes (MB), just under 1% of your 1.5 GB.

    At 15 MB per clip, 10,000 clips would be 150 GB and could be
    stored on one hard disk of 200 GB available for less than
    $100. The little PC in front of me I built last year has an
    IDE drive with 250 GB and two SATA drives with 200 GB each. I
    still have plenty of space for 10,000 video clips of 15 MB
    each. That PC is in a mini tower case and nowhere near 20
    square meters.

    For more, Seagate is talking single drives with 750 GB, 750
    hours of ordinary video, 125 hours of HD video, and 10 video
    streams at once. So, 10,000 HD video clips of 90 minutes each
    would be

    10000 * 90 * (1/60) * (1/125) = 120

    drives. That would be maybe 12 JBOD boxes with 10 disks each
    and, still, one or two racks of 4 square feet each and, maybe
    1200 video streams at once. For RAID, add one drive per array
    and use hot plugging. We’re still a long way from 20 square
    meters.

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