I find your critique of The Long Tail well balanced. Given the tone of the book and audience for which the book is written, it would be easy to agree with Anderson. By focusing on the sociological shifts that the information economy technologies afford and staying within that scope, it is a little easier to make the case.
I agree with your selection of a misinterpretation of choice. One of the things that T.A. McCann mentioned in class was that time is much more precious in this economy. You point out that, in the jams example, many people are unwilling to take the time to look for a niche product, whether that is asparagus-lime preserves or a boutique version of strawberry. It does take time and perseverance to find whether the niche product you’re looking for exists at all, and then where might be the best place to purchase it, if other than at the site where you find it. As to filtering to find the product, it may have been recommended by a friend or family member, not Google. The most effective communication between people is still face-to-face or as close to that as you can get. This leads to your second point about human social behavior. Human choice is very complex, although it certainly can be influenced by recommendations, reviews and referrals. Any one of these, however, can take place offline, thereby skewing future online filters for recommendations, reviews and referrals because they don’t have insight into a choice.
You mention the problems with B2B businesses which agree with my analysis of the How Not to Build an Online Market article. The effort to combine the Texas and California propane markets proved difficult because of the slightly different structures of each market, their size, location, and assumptions about the need for middlemen. While business models for B2B will emerge and evolve, it is not tidy process. Particularly when the realm of international B2B is considered, with financial regulations, import/export rules differing between countries, etc., there is considerably more complexity that will need to be made more simple and automated to enable the kind of growth envisioned in the book.
You affirm what we have mentioned in class, which is that we are in a time of transition. While Anderson’s book isn’t perfect, it does provide a tantalizing view of what might eventually be.
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