This blog and the value of the long tail

I’ve been looking through statistics for this Web site today. It’s been a trip down memory lane, but there’s an important lesson for the media in general in looking at my stats. The long tail is an overlooked and ignored part of the Web architecture by the mainstream press — including television stations — because our instincts and training tell us we can make money off archives. This is one of the most debated issues in my circle of friends, and my own experience here brings me down on the side of the long tail versus paid archives.

I publish my essays and leave them online for anybody to read whenever they choose to read them. One essay I wrote in October of 2003 finds its way to the top ten of my most read pages week after week. It’s The Defensive Newsroom. Our industry is going through extremely difficult times, and it shows up in ugly ways at the office. It’s not going away; it’s getting worse, so this essay is read and passed around the Internet. That page has been accessed 6,672 times in the past year. I think it contains some important information, and I’m glad to see people reading it 20 months after it was written. This is the long tail in action.

I may be unique in that I write for people to read. What good does it do a writer to attach his work to a tree in the middle of the forest? People will argue that I don’t get paid for my archives, to which I adamantly state that there are many different kinds of currency in the world. Compensation comes to me in many forms, and while I’m not getting rich, I’m at least putting food on the table. What more could a man want?

The whole idea of access to knowledge and information is changing, and modernist rules don’t apply anymore. It’s Alex Rowland’s “open versus closed distribution systems” at work, and the most important thing for all my contemporaries to understand is this: where knowledge exists in closed networks, people are writing their own for our open network. This avalanche has already begun, and it won’t be stopped.

Remember well the words of former FCC Chairman Michael Powell:

I have no problem if a venerable institution disappears tomorrow, as long as that value is distributed elsewhere in the economy.
The question is where will that value go? That’s where we need to be.

There are 52 essays and interviews on this site. Here are the top ten visited during the past 12 months:

1. The Defensive Newsroom — 6,672
2. Local TV’s New Deadlines — 4,133
3. News Is A Conversation — 3.672
4. The Busine$$ of RSS — 3,029
5. 10 Questions for Peggy Phillip — 2,915
6. 10 Questions for Tim Hanlon — 2,874
7. 2005: A Year of Trouble for Broadcasters — 2,587
8. The Live Coverage Revolution — 2,575
9. The New Public Relations — 2,154
10. Beyond the World Wide Web — 2,148

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