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How Media Consumption is influenced by the Long Tail

The article discusses how YouTube, a video-sharing website, increasingly pushes viewers to the fringe – the long end of the tail. Typically, viewers will start at the head: they want the hits. Viewers can find these in the trending section or at the top of their home page. YouTube draws its revenue from ad sales whenever an individual watches or interacts with an ad. Therefore, YouTube tries to maximize viewership and time spent on the site. Videos at the head of the curve generate significant amounts of revenue due to popularity. However, YouTube is still able to generate revenue by directing viewers to the large number of less frequently viewed, niche videos.

When an individual watches a video, they have a natural desire “to look behind the curtain.” There is excitement in “uncovering more secrets and deeper truths.” This causes YouTube to gradually promote material that is increasingly on the fringe. A search for a Donald Trump rally may lead to Infowars conspiracy theories (no longer available) which may further lead to white supremacist rants. This causes individuals to increasingly access the fringe material, which may be shared within their own social networks.

Videos which may have been less accessible in the past can now leave the long end of the tail and head towards the head as they spread through social networks. This can bring extremist and fringe material to the mainstream as was seen during the 2016 election. Prior to the election, Breitbart, a far-right, “news” organization that was largely left to a select group. However, once Trump and his chief strategist/executive chairman of Breitbart, Steve Bannon, were put into the limelight, Breitbart saw a spike in readership. Bringing Bannon into the mainstream served as a catalyst for bringing the tail of right-wing extremism to the head of the mainstream, as we’ve seen increasingly discussed on Fox News: conspiratorial issues of voter fraud, invading caravans, and the Deep State. As these ideas get drawn into the head through a rich get richer scenario, others get pushed to the tail with viewers/readers only able to allocate so much time in a day.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/youtube-extremism-and-the-long-tail/555350/

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