Dumber? Less observant? More down in information?

Check out some political statistics from the good people over at Wired. Interesting things there for sure (Daily Show audience more likely to recognize Politicos than CNN watchers??). Besides the 70% of people who could name the president (where have the other 30% been for the last 7 years??) which just boggles my mind, my favorite stats are further down that column where the "lesser known" politicians make a comeback. Previously the chief justice, speaker of the house, and secretary of defense were lower than they are now. Yet, the stats seem to suggest that, overall, we're paying less attention to politicos (or getting dumber). You could argue that the secretary of defense may be more apparent in time of war so let's call that an outlier and disregard it (should probably do the same with the president of Russia - in 1989 that probably had more import than it does now - if they had asked about France or Germany then we'd have a comparison). Have you heard of the long tail? (Link, Book - and yes there are many other people talking about this.) Basically, it's... well hit the link to find out what it is. These stats show the long tail in action: the middle "mass" of politicos has drifted down in popularity. OK, this isn't required for long tail - but it does suggest that we are either paying less attention, or we are finding sources that allow us to get to the tails (where before we were stuck in the middle for our info options - now we can get info on the tails we are interested in). The lower portions (Chief Justice & Speaker of the House) are the long tails: people want to know about these people. And now, with information that gives them more specifics and allows them to find out the information they want (think of CNN with prescribed set of information [hits the mass] vs. Google News with its open-ended options, further links for drilling-down into different areas, and searchability of more information [so the tail can be found]), they are getting to the tails. I'm not going to argue what this means. I'm definitely in the masses section on Politics. I can name the mass center but Speaker of the House? No clue. Chief Justice is conservative? I'm not sure I know what the Chief Justice is (I'm assuming one of the Supremes - but is there 1 of the 9 [?] that is the "chief?"). My point is just that this is what happens with our existing technologies: people find the edges they are interested in and suddenly things that were fringe can be popular. If you're selling or promoting a product, service, or organization you should understand this. Harder is to understand how to make it work for you. The good news is if you are thinking about starting up something that is on the fringe (www.twistedbasil.com [less fringe but a tail because it is very limited geographically - so the masses can't use it]) people have shown that they will find you if interested - and more people will than would have 20 years ago.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 12:00 AM

tagged: wired, politics, longtail, cnn, googlenews, news, twistedbasil