Continuing the long tail discussion that I posted about yesterday, Lee Gomes writes an email to Nick Carr clarifying his position and responding to some things Chris Anderson wrote in response to Lee’s Wall Street Journal article that began this little brouhaha.
Lee begins by clarifying his point about the effect of the long tail- basically that there may be a shift towards online shopping, but not to the extent Chris claims in his book. Then he takes direct issue with a few of the things Chris wrote yesterday:
“While I am at it, I’d like to correct an extremely serious misrepresentation Chris made at the end of his blog posting, to the effect that Anita Elberse of Harvard “urged” me not to characterize her work the way I did. This is manifestly false.”
Lee quotes an email from Professor Elberse thanking him (Lee) for quoting her so accurately and mentions that she corrected Chris about a statement in his response, via a comment to his post. Here is that comment:
“You say “Nielsen VideoScan data (…) is almost entirely taken from bricks-and-mortar sources.” I don’t think this is entirely correct. The VideoScan data reflect both offline and online sales, and actually break them down by channel. The breakdown is not as detailed as one might wish in an ideal world, but they do allow one to track whether, say, the share of offline sales go down over time. Therefore, I do think the fact that my colleague and I only observe a “slight” shift is meaningful.”
While that correction is much more of a clarification than a smackdown, I have to give this round to Gomes. He lands a few blows, including this one:
“While Chris seems to have repealed the’98 Percent Rule’ in his interviews with me, he didn’t do as much in the book. This is how he begins the book, and any reader, after hearing the ‘Rule” described as “nearly universal,’ would, if nothing else, assume that it was true at all the examples the book describes. Chris defended the fact that it’s not by noting to me that his book wasn’t titled ‘The 98 Percent Rule;’ does this mean that any sentence without ‘Long Tail’ in [it] can’t be assumed to be accurate? He also complains in his blog comments that I didn’t mention the 95% play rates at Netflix. But I wasn’t trying to show the ‘Rule’ was NEVER true; he is the one who said it was ‘universal.'”
Again, I don’t know the exact degree to which consumers are moving from bricks and mortar to the computer, but logic, common sense and experience tells me it is happening. The bigger question, which Nick asked and I discussed yesterday, is how much they have moved and whether the trip is over or just starting.
For the reasons I mentioned yesterday, I am convinced the move online is just starting.
But the only thing we know for sure is that books are written for readers, newspaper articles are written for readers and only time will tell who is ultimately right.