I am a huge proponent of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail heory to such an extent that my co-workers roll their eyes at my constant utterance of the phrase. The long tail contends that businesses with distribution power can sell a greater volume of items at small volumes than of popular items at large volumes. It is the methodology that is the driving force behind such companies as Netflix, Ebay, iTunes and Google Adwords. It also serves as a social theory in that our tastes are becoming much more diverse and niche in nature. For example, the highest rated TV show today has about a third of the audience as in the 70s and 80’s. This is not because people are watching less TV, but rather than watching a uninspired sitcom on network TV, I now maintain the ability to watch an episode of “Flight of the Conchords” on HBO followed by “The Bronx is Burning” on ESPN. BTW, I’m already hooked on the latter. Who can resist John Tuturro aka “The Jesus” from The Big Lebowski playing Billy Martin ( I accidentally typed in Ricky Martin at first…think about him managing the Yanks) and the constantly sweating Oliver Plath doing the worst George Steinbrenner possible. Regarding “Conchords”, would a show featuring two indie rock kiwis living in Williamsburg playing synthesizers ever engender an loyal audience during the days of “Dallas”?
So what in tarnation does this have to do with the smoothest brother to hit the scene since Billy Dee or a young Eric LaSalle in “Coming to America”? A great deal actually. While attempting to sweat off the extra 15 pounds of lard on my frame I happened across an article in Time called, “Obama’s Viral Marketing Plan”. It appears that Obama has been utilizing a “long tail” strategy in his fund raising activities. Traditionally, a great deal of campaign funds are garnered in huge chunks of money from captains of industry. Bush Jr. set records by relying on corporate bigwigs who would be responsible for pulling in amounts upwards of $200,000 for which they would receive a Condaleeza Rice bobblehead and a commemorative plate of the moment when Dick Cheney found out he had sired a lesbian. Dubyas strategy falls right in line with the conventional 80/20 rule however, Barack’s strategy is right out of the long tail playbook. For instance, he maintains over 9500 volunteers which include diverse folk such as school teachers, factory workers and housewives. These volunteers have committed to hosting individual fund raising web pages for the smooth talking Democrat. In fact, more than half of 10 million of Obama’s second quarter contributions were made online and 90% of them were in increments of $100 or less. That is pure long tail working its magic, contradictory of the increasingly outdated pareto principle. I do not really fancy myself to be the political type and those I have encountered with political ambitions tended to be amongst the most disingenuous and shiftiest people I have ever encountered. However, if Obama’s fund raising strategy is indicative of the fresh approach he will bring to the Oval Office, I believe he is worth a very close second look. Perhaps, the almost diametrically opposed strategies of the Bush and Obama camps is a metaphor for something larger; one welcoming and open while the other is fueled by its exclusivity and secrecy. Actually, screw them all, I’m voting for Al Sharpton based strictly on his hair.