A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers
who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world […] Prior to recent theoretical work on social networks, the usual explanations invoked individual behaviors: some members of the community had sold out, the spirit of the early days was being diluted by the newcomers, et cetera. We now
know that these explanations are wrong, or at least beside the point. What matters is this: Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality. […] In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention,
or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. […] The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and
freely enough, creates a power law distribution. […]
Once a power law distribution exists, it can take on a certain amount of homeostasis, the tendency of a system to retain its form even against external pressures. Is the weblog world such a system? Are there people who are as
talented or deserving as the current stars, but who are not getting anything like the traffic? Doubtless. Will this problem get worse in the future? Yes.
Though there are more new bloggers and more new readers every day, most of the new readers are adding to the traffic of the top few blogs, while most new blogs
are getting below average traffic, a gap that will grow as the weblog world does. It’s not impossible to launch a good new blog and become widely read, but it’s harder than it was last year, and it will be harder still next year. At some point (probably one we’ve already passed), weblog technology will be seen as a platform for so many forms of publishing, filtering, aggregation, and syndication that blogging will stop referring to any particularly coherent activity. The term ‘blog’ will fall into the middle distance, as ‘home page’ and ‘portal’ have […] This will happen when head and tail of the power law distribution become so different that we can’t think of J. Random Blogger and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit as doing the same thing. At the head will be webloggers who join in the mainstream media […] Meanwhile, the long tail of weblogs with few readers will become conversational. […] In between blogs-as-mainstream-media and blogs-as-dinner-conversation will be Blogging Classic, blogs published by one or a few people, for a moderately-sized audience, with whom the authors have a relatively engaged relationship. Because
of the continuing growth of the weblog world, more blogs in the future will follow this pattern than today. However, these blogs will be in the minority for both traffic (dwarfed by the mainstream media blogs) and overall number of blogs (outnumbered by the conversational blogs.) […] The relatively egalitarian distribution of readers in the early years had nothing to do with the nature of weblogs or webloggers. There just
weren’t enough blogs to have really unequal distributions. Now there are.
Nel 2003, l’anno di questo articolo, io avevo da poco aperto un blog. E ho verificato subito che formavo uno di questi grafici a coda lunga – continuo a formarlo – fra i miei stessi compagni di viaggio. Fra i siti che stanno nel blogroll qui a fianco, quelli aggregati nei feed e i preferiti elencati nel mio disk alla vecchia maniera, sono (purtroppo) una stretta minoranza quelli che leggo regolarissimamente, tutti gli altri sono – siamo – una coda lunga. E sottile. La cosa non mi piace affatto, come molte altre, del resto, incistate nella realtà.