The Random Long Tail and the Golden Age of Television

Joel Waldfogel

Chapter in NBER book Innovation Policy and the Economy, Volume 17 (2017), Shane Greenstein, Josh Lerner, and Scott Stern, editors (p. 1 - 25)
Conference held April 12, 2016
Published in February 2017 by University of Chicago Press
© 2017 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in NBER Book Series Innovation Policy and the Economy

Digitization has reduced the costs of production, distribution, and promotion in music, movies, and books, with major consequences for both the number of new products made available as well as the realized quality of the best new products. Cost reductions, along with relaxed gatekeeping constraints, make possible the creation of additional content. Then because of the inherent unpredictability of new product appeal, some of the new products turn out to be surprisingly good. This paper uses new data from a variety of sources to explore the evolution of television quality in the digital era. We document substantial growth in the number of new shows created and distributed, and increase in the quality of the best work, and that new kinds of shows—made possible by digitization—account for substantial and growing shares of most successful shows.

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