In this interesting post from 2015—getting a viral second wind—Alex Danco offers a model to understand how the "middle ground" of interest in things is fading. That's the normal distribution, the traditional bell curve that suggests the best place to make your business is at a middle optimum of scale and interest, like so:
Instead, these days, you're either interested or not. To make a go of something, you have to nail either scale or interest (i.e. cheap vs quality):
It strikes me that what Danco's defined here is a flip (on the horizontal axis) of the classic early-2000s theory about how the web would allow creators to make money like never before, the long tail.
The idea was that the internet dissolved gatekeepers, democratized the marketplace, and allowed consumer internet to roam over (and buy) a "long tail" of options that was revealed to them by new technology.
And it did, for some. Mostly, though, the long tail ended up as aggregated social media content. The bonds of content, creator and consumer, far from being remade by the internet, were also dissolved by them. Instead of a long tail, we have a green goo of nanocontent which wants to become as vast as possible, with a couple of big corporations making all the money.
I don't have a clever point to make, I just think it's interesting that social media not only submerged the long tail but made us forget it ever existed—and now it's going to be rediscovered from other viewpoints over and over again, each time in increasingly imprecise and alarmed terms.
Here's something to think about the next time you see a blurted-out tweetstorm of fascinating research, history or creativity that could have been a paid-for article, documentary or what-have-you: people are still paid for that sort of thing without having to perform that thing online first. The gatekeepers and professional networks are just hidden from view by the very thing that promised to expose them. The thing which you think you need to find and cultivate an audience. The thing you find, for strange and unapproachable reasons, that you cannot escape. The thing which (He whispers! He narrows his eyes! Here's the secret no-one wants to know) that participation in as likely closes doors to you as opens them.