The movie industry is understood to be a winner-take-all marketplace, as a few blockbusters typically grab the lion's share of box-office receipts, while the majority of films that get made fight it out for the scraps. One of the main reasons for this is the scarcity of screens. As word of mouth causes more people to go to a film, theaters start showing it on more screens, reducing the space for its competitors. The upshot is that even if you have several very good movies out at once, inherently they can't all do well. And the long tail? Forget about it. But the dynamics at play in the film industry are not found to the same extent elsewhere. One author is taking umbrage with the oft-repeated line (via Boing Boing) that the marketplace for books, like films, is a blockbuster-driven, winner-take-all tournament. It may be true that the publishing industry has failed so far to grasp the power of the long tail, as evidenced by its reluctance to see the value in online book searching. But just look at a typical book store; as prominently displayed as the top-sellers are, there's usually tons of space for books that sell far less. And even before Amazon, bookstores could order books that weren't on its shelves per a customer request. For a long time, the film industry had to settle for this situation, as there was no other model of distribution. But now that there are alternatives, the industry is hanging on to its old ways for dear life. Developing distribution models that don't require some films to be losers in order to make way for winners, as in books, will help return the studios to solid ground.
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