Long Tail Filters

Chris Andersen writes:

One of the themes that I’m developing in the book is the notion that “a Long Tail without good filters is just noise.” But what are good filters?

To begin, I’m using the catch-all term “filters” (which I’m not crazy about; anyone got a better word?) to describe the tools that help you find what’s right for you in the massive variety of the Long Tail. The examples I use most often are search and recommendations from either people (be they influential bloggers or just friends) or software, such as Amazon-style collaborative filtering (“people like you bought…”).

when you think about it, the world is already full of a different kind of filter. In the scarcity-driven markets of limited shelves, screens and channels that we’ve lived with for most of the past century, entire industries are created around finding and promoting the good stuff. This is what the A&R talent scouts at the record labels do, along with the Hollywood studio executives and store purchasing managers (“Buyers”). In boardrooms around the world, market research teams pour over data that predicts what’s likely to sell and thus deserves to win a valuable spot on the shelf, screen or page…and what doesn’t.

…The ones I’ve been focusing on is that they filter before things get to market. Indeed, their job is to decide what will make it to market and what won’t. I call them “pre-filters”.

By contrast, the recommendations and search technologies that I’m writing about are “post-filters”. They find the best of what’s already out there in their area of interest, elevating the good (relevant, interesting, original, etc.) and ignoring or downplaying the bad. When I talk about throwing everything out there and letting the marketplace sort it out, these post-filters are the voice of the marketplace. They channel consumer behavior and amplify it, rather than trying to predict it.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.