I agree that ‘Long Tail’ by Anderson is a
compelling idea, which clearly shows how digital technology might be changing
both markets and business models. It’s a ground breaking work on new
business principles. However, I am also interested in Anita
Elberse’s refutation that “the
web may have actually increased attention to mainstream content, often referred
to as the "head," while Anderson believes that consumers have used
the internet to embrace niche content.” According to her, the continued
dominance of big media and mainstream content has much to do with a human
desire to experience culture communally. She argues, thus, that "the internet simply
amplifies that drive." In this context, can we conclude that the (long) tail really is
wagging the head with the advent of digitized era?
To me, nothing exemplifies the potential and shortcomings of the "long tail" approach as well as Spotify. For the uninitiated, Spotify is a streaming music service that lets you listen to a massive library of music (legally) over the Internet whenever you want. It has a free version (which is ad-supported) and several tiers of paid editions (which allow mobile access, offline access, and other features).
For me as a music consumer, Spotify has been a long-tail paradise. Over the past year and a half, I've used it to explore all kinds of genres and sub-genres of music -- many of them obscure records or album tracks that I'd never hear on the radio and probably wouldn't find at most record stores, either. I've done a ton of Spotify listening, and almost all of it has been deep in the long tail. It's all listening that simply wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago, at least not without thousands of dollars to buy and try out all of those albums.
But for the media companies themselves, my long-tail indulgence has been almost worthless in monetary terms. Spotify pays labels per listen, which in turn distribute that money to their artists per listen as well. According to this article, each of my plays of a song on Spotify Free is making the artist somewhere between 1 cent and 1/10 of 1 cent. Don't spend it all in one place, guys! I could listen to thousands of songs (and I have), and it would still only add up to a few dozen bucks collectively for all of those artists.
But that just means Spotify is making a bunch of money off me instead, right? Wrong. Since I'm not willing to pony up for a monthly fee (I don't have a smartphone and my laptop is always connected to the web, so mobile and offline access don't mean much to me), Spotify has actually been losing money on me.
So whose perspective do we take on the long tail? For me as a consumer, it's been an amazing development. But as a business model, at least in my case, it's worthless. There are surely other, better ways to make money off the long tail (even Spotify's subscriber services are making gobs of money), so this isn't necessarily an indictment of the long tail as a whole. But it's one data point suggesting that it's quite a bit more difficult to make money off the long tail as Chris Anderson makes it sound.
The "ceiling effect" in profitability of physical mainstream media products makes sense since (1) there are limits to the common denominator formula (2) physical markets tend to be much smaller than online markets.
But these limitations don't apply to online stores. On the internet, while online stores can still carry "mainstream" products to aim at the common denominator audiences, the online environment eliminates the two possible ceiling effects with 1) low to zero cost for storage and distribution and 2) elimination of geographic markets. In other words, online media stores have the best of both worlds in terms of offering endless content amd having countless potential consumers, both of which are reason enough for the triumph of long tail effects.
I think the competition media companies in the physical world whines about (for the lack of a better expression) is not necessarily one of "online vs. traditional" per se - but one of "who is better at satisfying the needs, or even quirks, of their customers/audiences?" The news industry faces the same problem.
Legacy media industries, arguably, never took the time to fully understand consumers/audiences in their geographic region to cultivate loyalty and rapport, and to improve customer/audience satisfaction. For example, Borders in Brooklyn, NY should not carry the same items as Borders in Lubbock, TX, but chances are they probably did carry identical things for the reasons Chris Anderson detailed, and I think this is really a shame because "localness" is one of those attributes that online stores can never take away from physical stores.
In sum, market negligence in the physical world is a worse enemy than the "traditional vs. digital" debate accounts for. In other words, in order to stay competitive in the 21st century, unless physical stores can carry as much content choices as online stores do to entice their customers/audiences, they better figure out what their unique attributes are -- stop talking in terms of "what I can offer you" and start elaborating on "how I can meet your X and Y needs in ways that the online stores cannot."
For my final paper, I have one big, huge, overarching question and a whole bunch of different ways to tackle it. Here's a very short version of what I'm looking at -- I'd love to hear your feedback.
My overarching question: “What leads
newspapers in different geographical and social settings to use technologies in
different ways?” The key area of newspapers I'm interested in are community newspapers, but this question would allow me to compare those newspapers to other types as well.
For me, that means the dependent variable would be use of interactive technology -- which could be measured through a content analysis of newspapers' websites, mobile apps, and social media presences.
Where things get sticky is with the independent variable. There are a number of different ways I could go with this:
Attributes of the newspapers' geographic community. Possible research questions here:
What is the relationship between a community’s technological access and the use of technology by its newspapers? Could be measured through public FCC broadband access data.
What is the relationship between a community’s structural pluralism and the use of technology by its newspapers? Could be measured through Census data regarding race, education, poverty levels, and occupational classification.
What is the relationship between a community’s media use habits and the use of technology by its newspapers? Could be measured on a case study level, through a community survey.
The other area would be community journalists’ perceptions of their geographic community. Possible research questions:
What is the relationship between journalists’ perceptions of their community’s technology use and their own use of technology within community newspapers? How do journalists’ perceptions of community technology use interact with other economic and professional factors in influencing their use of technology?
Both of these could be measured by surveying journalists about their perceptions of their community's technology use and their decision-making process regarding use of technology.
A lot of good (?) ideas, but not much direction. I could use some soon!
At the end of 2010, Korean incumbent government granted four
conservative national dailies the new
licenses to operate new cable TV channels. Korean major newspapers had
been desperate to win the licenses because they believed that the new
broadcasting business will help overcome the recession of newspaper industry
and leverage their print dominance to television. They, thus, had competed for
the newly-opened cable television ever since 2009, when the government lifted Korea’s
traditional cross-ownership ban that had prevented a corporation from owning both
newspapers and broadcasting company at the same time.
decision was made after years of severe nationwide
debate, division and cross-industry bickering. The governmentcontended that
the deregulation was for producing better contents
that would help the Korean media companies strengthen international
competitiveness and become global media companies.
However, there had
been widespread concern over not only the deleterious effects of the new channels on journalism
such as the harm to diversity in public opinion but
also the thinly-stretched budgets of advertisers.
Although it was very questionable
whether the market could create additional TV advertising spots from
advertisers, the government claimed that the new channels would generate enough
advertising revenue. However, they
have been operating at a loss due to the very low viewer ratings and poor
advertising spots. Even though the new channels have
greatly lowered their price for advertising spots, they are keeping “drowning
in red ink.”
The government and the newspapers really
did not know that television advertising is price inelastic? Or, just because
of the political thinking, they were blind to media economics? This study will explore how the
newspapers depicted the new cable TV channels, which show whether and how
much they concentrated on media economics perspective regarding their approach
to new business model.
differences, if any, were there in Korean major newspapers’ frames of the new
cable TV channels?
RQ2: What differences, if any, were there in Korean
major newspapers’ tone of stories about the new cable TV channels?
RQ2a: What differences, if any, were
there in Korean major newspapers’ tone of the
frame used most frequently?
RQ3: When Korean
major newspapers covered the new cable TV channels, what sources did Korean
major newspapers mainly depend on?
RQ4: When Korean
major newspapers covered the new cable TV channels, to what extent was such
coverage based on media economics data?
Economics suggest people innately seek to maximize utility, but scholars rarely discuss the utility of news to audiences. They often explore "why people consume news" (which has proven to have lukewarm predictive power from the uses and gratifications literature) but not how useful news is to audiences. This study offers two ways to understand news utility (what is news and how important is it?), and examines how they predict news consumption.
-- Research questions --
RQ1: What does "news" mean to audiences?
RQ2: How important is news to different news audiences?
RQ3: How does the audience's definition of news influence perceived importance of news?
RQ4: How does the audience's definition of news influence their news consumption from a) local newspapers, b) national newspapers c) network national news, d) cable (CNN, MSNBC, FOX), e) local TV, f) social media (Facebook & Twitter), g) aggregators (Yahoo & Google) ?
RQ5: How does perceived importance influence news consumption from a) local newspapers, b) national newspapers c) network national news, d) cable TV, e) local TV, f) social media, g) aggregators?
(Sorry for the long wind-up, it was mostly for my sake, not yours. Skip to paragraph 3 if you wish to cut to the chase.)
People may not be willing to spend their money online or on
mobile devices. But they may be willing to spend their time. My question is
where that time is coming from. In
economic terms, attention is a scarce resource that consumers decide how to
distribute based on their desires to maximize utility. To focus on a narrow
application of this idea, a person might decide to dedicate a certain portion
of their attention to news consumption. This news consumption might be entirely
from a morning newspaper, or split between the Internet and local TV news, or
any other combination. If a person
wanted to use a new medium for news, say because they received an Amazon Kindle
for Christmas, they would have to cut back on other media use because their attention
is a scarce resource.
But I argue that attention is not as fixed a resource as
some might suspect. First, increasing media use may take attention from other
areas of life (a person may go out less, for example). Of course, there are still only 24 hours in a
day, so at some point there are no other parts of the pie to steal from. But
secondly, what if new technologies introduce efficiencies into the attention
system such that person has more expendable attention? Instead of simply
waiting in line – what used to be attention essentially wasted – people
frequently consume media on portable electronic devices. Not that this wasn’t
possible (people have always brought books to waiting rooms) but it now
requires no advance thought because a cell phone is, for most people, a
constant companion (unlike a book, for most people).
It may be that, in a world of increasing choice, people are
more able to exercise their preferences (as Prior says), and hence simply swap
one medium or news source for another that better suits their preferences. But
it could also be that access to the Internet anywhere has fundamentally changed
how and when we choose to consume media, pushing media consumption into
heretofore media-less areas of our lives. I find some evidence of this in my
study of how journalists use smartphones and tablets, which enable them to work
at times and in places where it was previously impossible or prohibitively
inconvenient. This new convenience of Internet access may be wiggling its way
into the nooks and crannies of our lives, leading to a surge
Proposition: Mobile Internet technologies are not “or”
media, but “and” media. (The language of substitute and complementary would
seem to apply, but I think that would imply some sort of relationship between
the media. My sense is that they are NOT related, that mobile internet
consumption fits into a new gap that it created for itself.)
Data required: Media usage across several years, but preferably
at least the last five years. Hours working. Leisure time and recreation data.
Some measure of busy-ness, maybe stress or anxiety could be a proxy here. The
idea is to get a sense of how much attention people have to spend, and then
decide whether that has changed with the adoption of mobile Internet devices.
Text messaging, also known as Short Message Service (SMS), is a important profitable service to mobile service providers, which contribute about 20% revenue of mobile service providers's total revenue. However, SMS faces huge challenge to the social messaging applications on smartphone and social networking services, such as: WhatsApp, LINE, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Last month, OVUM released a report, which forecasted that social message applications would make mobile operators losing the revenue about US$54 billion by 2016.
The different pricing types between text messaging and social message application could be one of the main reasons why social message applications grow up so quickly. Traditional text messaging was charged by usage, although there are some wireless operators have provided unlimited text messaging services with a flat monthly rate, however, consumers only have to buy the applications (sometimes consumer can even download the applications freely), than use the social message services on smartphone without paying any fee.
To consumer, social messaging application could be a more economic choice, however, in some countries, mobile operators were highly regulated by government, especially the pricing. For instance, all of the rate plans of mobile operators have to get the permission from NCC (National Communications Commission) in Taiwan, and once a service were reduced the price will never be permitted to raise the price again. However, the regulators cannot regulate the applications providers which might lead to an unfair competition environment.
How to create a fair competition environment by regulations between mobile operators and applications providers? Should regulators dismiss from the pricing regulation? What is most benefit to consumer? How do the mobile operators deal with the challenges from application providers?
What kind of data I need?
SMS usage and revenue statistics in five years.
The changes of mobile operators revenue combination.
The performance of social messaging application companies.
The pricing regulations of mobile operators in main countries.
What’s the storyline
The emergence of social messaging applications.
The decreased of short message services.
The correlation between social messaging applications and short message services.
How to make a fair competition environment which can benefit the consumer, operators and industries.