Making a living on the web: 1000 true fans

You can always count on Kevin Kelly to sense the emerging dynamics of a system and crystallize his insight into a simple and compelling idea that he freely shares with everyone. Then this idea spreads into collective understanding such that it is hard to imagine how one actually viewed the issue beforehand. It’s almost uncanny how consistent this is.

Kevin is at it again with a recent blog post articulating a strategy for creatives to make money on the web through building and maintaining a moderately-sized patronage system, a model he calls 1000 True Fans.

…The long tail is a decidedly mixed blessing for creators. Individual artists, producers, inventors and makers are overlooked in the equation. The long tail does not raise the sales of creators much, but it does add massive competition and endless downward pressure on prices…Other than aim for a blockbuster hit, what can an artist do to escape the long tail?

Young artists starting out in this digitally mediated world have another path other than stardom, a path made possible by the very technology that creates the long tail. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum hits, bestseller blockbusters, and celebrity status, they can aim for direct connection with 1,000 True Fans.

Definitely read the whole post for the full effect. I think Kevin’s observations and insights hold true not just for individual artists, but for a new generation of niche web services that are not necessarily designed to go viral and attract millions of users, but will instead leverage the 1000 true fans strategy to make a decent living for their creators. We are seeing this already with an explosion of small social networking sites, but I have a feeling there are many more of these human-scale services to come.

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