the end of fame
Andy Warhol said everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame. Now, a quarter of a century later, everyone gets to be famous to fifteen people. And that can be far more useful and satisfying.
I first saw the line in David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined, and I’ve used it often since, when trying to explain how the web works and why people find weblogging useful when each weblog has tens or maybe hundreds of thousands fewer readers than a newspaper does. The line seems to work. People laugh, and then they make that little sigh of beginning-to-understand, their faces turn inwards for a moment, their eyes look away as they think. They seem to get it, finally.
Wired’s article The Long Tail, also linked to by Joi, is even more interesting. It discusses how the need for physical distribution and display of media (books, CDs, DVDs, films in movie theatres) has forced us into thinking that there is a mainstream. If you make all the non-hits available, sure you’ll still find the power law for the top section, showing that far more people want the most popular items, but if you follow the “long tail” of things that are rarely stocked by conventional shops, you’ll see that the power law evens out. You can go almost as far as you like and still people will want niche items, if they can only find them. Look at this, for instance:
The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. (p 3)
Now that’s a nice figure to quote at those people who think weblogs aren’t important because their readers aren’t calculated in six digits.