Is the Long Tail a Lit Fuse?
3 min read

Is the Long Tail a Lit Fuse?

The demise of Publishing 2.0 was predicted early on — I’m still chugging along, but Phil’s point here is spot on — starting to blog is easy but blogging successfully over the long term is really, really hard. Which makes me wonder about the future of consumer-created media, especially in light of a fascinating analysis by Matt Galloway, which combines David Sifry’s latest numbers on the growth of the blogosphere with Umbria Communication’s comprehensive report on the state of splogs. Here are the results of Matt’s analysis:

I created an approximation of Sifry’s trend and carried it forward (assuming a constant rate of growth of 12.75%) out to May, 2006. I then created an approximation of Umbria’s splog trend for the same time period, using a constant 31% increase in the percent splog (same as 48% increase in number of splogs.) Finally, I subtracted the number of Umbria splogs from the number of Sifry blogs to yield an approximate number of non-spam splogs.

Then I graphed it and got this…

Yulp, you’re reading it right. Assuming that both Sifry and Umbria are accurate and that these growth rates are remaining constant – the non-spam Blogosphere has peaked in size and is now contracting. Furthermore, by March, blog spam will represent half of all blogs.

Anybody want to take a stab at what the heck is going on here?

I’ll take a stab at what’s going on, using Matt’s analytic technique — consider Matt’s analysis alongside this Wired report on “Podfading”:

Although hard figures are elusive, host Rob Walch of the podcaster-interview program Podcast411 estimates at least a fifth of podcasters don’t make it to their 10th show; he expects the podcast graveyard to become even more crowded as podcasting becomes easier. Walch instituted a rule that he won’t interview a podcaster until the show has at least 10 episodes.

“Podcasting is one of those things that’s cheap and easy to begin to do but takes a tremendous amount of time to keep going with no payoff,” said freelance writer and blogger Brian Reid of Alexandria, Virginia, former host of the gender-issues program Sex Talk, who quit in August. “There was no money in it and it did nothing to push my career forward. I’ve got a lot of other things in my life, paying work being one and my family is another. It’s not like blogging, where you can do it for 15 minutes at a time and get away with it.”

Consumer-created media takes a lot of time and energy — unless we develop economic models to meaningfully compensate the long tail, the ego payoff for most people won’t be enough to justify the effort. The cost of entry to create content is low in terms of dollars, but the cost of sustainable content creation is very high in terms of time, which in this short life is our most valuable commodity.

Open markets have a way of purging the excess — the long tail will shrink as people go back to their lives, making high quality content less of a commodity. Perhaps the bubble in media will deflate itself and, as happened with the last bubble, the best brands will survive and ultimately ascend.

David Sifry just alerted me that his numbers have in fact been scrubbed of splogs and other forms of spam, so his graph below represents only “human-created blogs.”

Sifry Blog Count

Well, I’m getting that bubbly feeling again. The 27 million blog question is whether Sifry’s graph will turn out to look like Matt’s graph at some point down the road.

It would be interesting to see stats on blogs that post daily vs. blogs that post at least weekly vs. blogs that appear to be abandonned.