Skip to main content

The Prevalence of Power Laws in Society

Tauberg, Michael. “Power Law in Popular Media.” Medium, Medium, 9 July 2018,

In this article, Michael Tauberg dives into different industries and looks at graphs of data regarding their popularity, whether that’s number of sales, box office numbers, weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list, or other such measurements. What Tauberg observes is that so many industries and spaces in popular media follow the power law, which is a concept we spent several lectures on. In simplified terms, the power law says that a small portion of the participants in an industry will hold a large portion of the popularity, however that’s measured. For example, Tauberg provides a table in the article, and one of the data points shows that for game publishers, 97.69% of the success was held by the top 20%. Thus, a relatively small portion of the participants, 20% of them, hold an astronomically high amount of the success.

The bulk of the article is a display of graphs for different industries and fields, where the x-axis contains participants and the y-axis contains the measurement of success. As we learned in class, a power law graph will seem to have a “long tail,” which represents the large portion of participants that each have a relatively small amount of the success, while the head of the graph will show a spike which represents the small portion of participants that each have a relatively large amount of the success. The visuals in the article do a great job of illustrating this concept, as they show relatively similarly looking graphs across a wide variety of industries, showcasing the prevalence of this phenomenon in society. I was fascinated reading this article because it set in stone how the concepts that we learn in class, such as the power law and the rich-get-richer idea, are clearly relevant in real life. Tauberg does an excellent job of driving this point home, as the industries he looks at in this article, such as music, movies, games, and books, are some of the most influential and known fields in our society. As we learned in class, the rich getting richer phenomenon often occurs because people in society make decisions that are at least partially based on what others in society do. The article articulates that notion and further explains that “as our lives become more and more connected, we should expect that power law curves will become even more common. Moreover, winners in this new world will become even more dominant.” This makes sense because our lives becoming more connected means that we have more information based on other people’s opinions and actions, which furthers the network effect of popularity.


Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

December 2019