Many amphibians have the ability to shed their tails. In light of the Wall Street Journal's review of Chris Andersen's Long Tail, I'm not sure if many Web 2.0 businesses might wish they could do the same. It seems to blow a hole in his 98% argument which specified that 98% of inventories record at least one sale a quarter.
"Ecast told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays."
So, as inventory increases and storage/bandwidth expenses rise accordingly, the proportion of useless content seems to be rising far faster.
Now profitable Amazon are smart enough to avoid carrying costs for their huge virtual inventory and arguably minimise totally worthless content because that is filtered out by the rejection letters of publishers and record companies. Web 2.0 companies are not so fortunate and will discover that the long tail is very long indeed. All the more so if you have no such quality control filters as is the case with YouTube.
That doesn't mean they can't be profitable, but it does highlight the need to connect your customers to the content tail. The marketing-free world is a geek pipedream.