Technology’s Long Tail

I just finished watching a TED Talk by Wired’s Chris Anderson about technology trends and the “long tail.” I found this talk very interesting, which came partly because of the way Anderson explained his concept.¬†

Anderson discussed the lifespan of technology, which he has broken down into four distinct phases: critical price, critical mass, displacement, and free. These four phases show the rise and decline of different technological products as they become popular and how they eventually decline as new products come out.

One part of the talk that really peaked my interest was Anderson’s example of the DVD. This helped put the concept into a form I could grasp because I grew up during the rise and fall of DVDs. Anderson describes how DVDs have gone through all four phases of the concept, and he also explains how one technology can lead to other technological advances because of it. Without the rise of DVDs, we wouldn’t have ever needed DVD players or surround sound systems in our home, and Netflix never would have come about, which would have been a real tragedy.

This talk is from 2004, which is hard to believe was 14 years ago, so he has a different perspective on DVDs. They were already in their “free” stage, but Anderson mentions that people went crazy for $30 DVDs at Walmart. This is hard for me to even imagine since now you can walk into Walmart, go to a giant bin, and buy a DVD for $3. It blows my mind to think that at one point in time a DVD cost $400.

According to Robin Lewis’ article,¬†Anderson’s theory “is being proven as reality. However, he didn’t give the heads up to most of last century’s traditional megabrands and retailers that they might also participate and accelerate their growth by implementing the theory.” Companies should take Anderson’s theory into consideration when marketing their new technologies in order to take full advantage of their potential.


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