The attention economy "bifurcating" is just the long tail in dystopia

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To make a go of something, you have to nail either scale or interest (i.e. cheap vs quality)

The disappearance of the “quality middle” has been disappearing all over the place in the U.S. along with the middle class. If you’re not already wealthy, “premium mediocre” is as good as it will get. And yes, it’s the big corporations that benefit one way or another.


This reminds me of the old marketing theory about how you can make your product moderately attractive to everyone and hope to capture some small slice of the mass market pie (but instead, probably fail among the dozens of similar, mediocre competitors). OR, you can forgo the mass market, and target your “thing” to an eager subgroup… This pie is way smaller than the mass market, but you have a better chance of capturing a large piece of it.


This is certainly food for thought, but the claims aren’t supported by actual research. I would find it more convincing if the post showed graphs depicting how people really behave, rather than how Alex feels they behave. Sure Alex includes supporting anecdotes, but they are easily cherry picked. Anecdotal evidence is weak. It’s the typical MBA approach: argue claims based on a few case studies rather than scientific data.

Here’s an example of a completely unsupported claim:

Where’s the proof? Without any evidence provided, I must assume that this claim is based entirely on what the author feels is the case, instead of reality.

I’m not saying Alex’s hypothesis is incorrect, but the argument for it lacks rigor.


yep, this is driven by the economic bifurcation of income inequality and wealth concentration. Either you can afford to have whatever you want, and pay any price for it, or you get squat. If you live in what used to be considered ordinary middle class circumstances (which today takes higher-than average income) there is a sense that this economy has already decided you don’t exist.


From reading that article the idea of “premium mediocre” seems to be very much like the concept of “middle class” itself.

What is generally called “middle class” is just a slightly wealthier segment of the non-ownership, working class, but with aspirational cultural signifiers that align them with the cause of wealth- in the same way that “premium mediocre” is just mass-market consumerism with premium branding plastered over it in order to induce false consumer-consiousness.


Attention economy? No thanks, I got better things to do.


I think the difference is that traditionally the market would sell the middle class high-quality Veblen goods as markers of their affluence. With that middle class being merged and downgraded into a larger “lower class” in late-stage capitalist society, the market no longer feels it has to offer qualities like durability and authenticity – instead it can just crank out ersatz and differently badged versions of those qualities as you describe.

Expanding on the Vimes “Boots” Theory, at one point there were $10 low-quality boots that lasted six months, $20 mid-quality boots that lasted five years, and $50 high-quality boots that lasted 10 years. Now there’s just low-quality boots and high-quality boots, with the former being sold for $10 and $20 with different branding and styling.

It’s a similar phenomenon to the long-tail ideal vs. the current reality described in the article.


You can have my Sunbeam CG-1 waffle iron when you pry it from my dead, slightly-burned, hands.


@beschizza I am specifically writing you because I can’t heart this article more.



The way I look at it is that we’ve lost legitimate variety for the sake of uniformity. Now for food that makes sense. You don’t want to have randomly bad food but when it comes to other goods that aren’t really comparable with each other variety is a good thing. Like think of how we use to have many different brands of consumer electronics but now we have maybe five or fewer in the world? It’s just wild to imagine that having that one off brand manufacturer which makes a decent gadget in one category was a thing. Today, it’s either you go big or go home. It really pisses me off because different firms would come up with better ideas when focused on one aspect of their products but today anything that differentiates them is kind of seen as a hazard. Hell, look at how computer UIs have been converging over the last twenty years and not for the better.


No more Jello for me, mom!


LOL more like “no more soylent for me, parental unit.” XD


“Oh, oh, no more buttered scones for me, mater. I’m off to play the grand piano.”


My friends and I often comment on the loss of the “quality middle” when it comes to stereo equipment. During my college years (late 70’s-early 80’s) tons of companies were cranking out some pretty damn fine audio electronics and every dorm room had examples of it. Now that’s all gone, with the majority of the market being cheap Bluetooth mono speakers. Finding quality stuff that doesn’t break the bank is much more difficult.


Is premium mediocre the new Ersatz?


You may be on to something. However, one fatal flaw in the “long tail” idea is that the internet is a huge place, just like the real world. It’s almost impossible to explore it independently so people rely on search engines and forums and social media for input. Those places become like the cities and marketplaces of the real world, where people find things in their ‘local’ area. It’s just that everyone is in the same places with only small variations and those places want to make money from us. The long tail idea is nice but not really based on how people actually behave. We rely too much on habit and keep going back to the places we know. Online like everywhere else.

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