Two years ago a book was published that stated the Internet would turn inventory management and planning around. No-longer constrained by bricks and mortar, consumer consumption of goods would change. The internet brings about a new consequence: consumption patterns will change, and “hits” will shift to “misses.” Misses according to the book, “The Long Tail Theory” would become more profitable.

Now a new study that derived data from web sites says it isn’t so. The most popular items online are just as important than they are offline. The study was based on selected video and music eCommerce web sites.

Harvard associate professor Anita Elberse has penned a long article for the Harvard Business Review that used data from Rhapsody and Australian DVD-by-mail distributor Quickflix to demonstrate that rather than the Internet enabling a “long tail” of niche media which publishers should embrace, the blockbuster strategy is still what pays dividends for content producers. In other words, Elberse argues that media is still a hits business, and that the Internet is not necessarily the democratizing force The Long Tail author Chris Anderson says it is. Anderson says that Elberse’s analysis isn’t wrong, per se, just that they disagree on exactly what the “head” and “tail” mean. Except that Elberse worked with Anderson on researching his book, so one imagines the Wired magazine editor explained it thoroughly. Funny, it’s as though two different people analyzing the same data have come to entirely different conclusions about the “truth.”

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