The Long Tail is getting Longer

About six months ago, due to a major change in my own personal situation, I moved back into my mother’s house. Fortunately, she lives in a big house and I moved into the downstairs part of it where it is pretty much self contained and self sufficient. I have my own bedroom, loungeroom, bathroom and study area, so things could be a lot worse.

What I’m finding fascinating though is just how little time I spend watching TV or listening to the radio these days. In the past 6 months I think I have watched TV about 4 times, and only then because I was completely bored. I don’t even have a radio, except the one in my car and I never listen to that. Instead, I have been listening to a lot of podcasts which I subscribe to via the iTunes directory. For entertainment I watch a lot of video blogs, again sourced largely via download through the iTunes directory and viewed using my Mac or my video iPod. I even get regular news and weather reports directly on my 3G mobile phone via the 3 mobile web service, called Planet 3, and rarely read an actual newspaper anymore. I have a large number of RSS feeds that deliver customised news and information directly to my computer. And all that extra time I used to spend watching TV is now used to create content rather than consume it, and instead I find myself blogging, podcasting, writing and editing my own media.

And it’s not just me… tonight, my kids are here visiting. My 15 year old son Alex is sitting at his laptop watching a vodcast of the Chaser’s War on Everything, and will probably go play a video game of some sort in a minute. My 12 year old daughter Kate is using my video iPod to watch a few episodes of Family Guy, and before firing up the iPod she spent some time updating her new blog.

The TV is not on. There’s no radio. And we don’t even buy the newspaper.

This whole “Long Tail” concept is really hitting home to me. I am seeing and experiencing the reality of this huge shift away from the delivery of traditional media content by conventional means like TV, radio and newspapers. Alex was telling me the other day how he read that all of the major TV stations in Australia are experiencing a large decline in ther viewership. It’s no surprise that newspapers and magazines are selling in smaller numbers than ever before. And radio stations are stuggling to maintain listeners. Traditional media is in big trouble…

Meanwhile, we keep seeing an explosion in the number of people using the Internet as their main source of news, information and entertainment. Blogging and podcasting are growing exponentially. Mobile phones are moving into the delivery of full broadband-type services and are selling by the hundreds of millions.

My own kids are a living example of just how much the nature of information flow has changed in the last few years. They are no strangers to this… they live out on the long tail of cultural change. They are just typical kids, and this is their world. And yet I know that many of their teachers are blissfuly unaware of just how much their world has changed. Many hardworking, well meaning teachers are completely unaware of the magnitude of these changes. For my own kids and thousands more like them, going to school means turning up and being taught using a methodology and a mindset that is essentially the same as it ever was with very little acknowledgement that things have changed as dramatically as they actually have.

If these sorts of changes do not represent a fundamental shift in the way our society works, then I don’t know what does. I fail to see how people can not recognise this huge cultural paradigm shift that has taken place, and that our world and the way we communicate and learn has changed irrevocably.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The Long Tail is getting Longer by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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