The long tail of research reports — or how to save $150

In a blog post promoting a new $150 O’Reilly Radar Report on the Facebook Application Market, Tim O’Reilly made the mistake of cloaking the promo in the language of “long tail” economics. Unfortunately, O’Reilly seems to have mis-applied the currently popular interpretation of the long tail of power or demand curves.

Fortunately, long tail-meister Chris Anderson is blogging this weekend and took time to explain to Tim why he should have perhaps found another way to tout the report rather than draft off the long-tail breeze. In addition to providing O’Reilly a wonderful economics lesson, Chris also provides a couple of insightful reasons why the bottom 4,916 Facebook applications seem to be doing so poorly:

“1. The social networking on Facebook is too powerful. This is the tyranny of network effects, where viral success is the only kind and popularity snowballs into an avalanche or goes nowhere at all. That sort of herd behavior is usually a sign of an immature market.

2. Most apps are total crap. That, in turn, may say something about the whole idea of Facebook as a platform. But I’ll leave that discussion for another day.”

Perhaps you can just read those two points and skip spending the $150.