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Sociolinguistics at the Long Tail

Luistxo Fernandez 2005/03/31 09:40

I wrote an article some days ago about The Long Tail and the blogosphere. I think it's the first introduction to the long tail concept or meme written in Basque...

It's been republished by a website dedicated to the Basque language. That led me to think again about the position of languages in relation to the Long Tail issue. Given that the Long Tail is an actual fact in the realm of blogs, I have a personal suspicion (and some hope): The sociolinguistics of blogs is different from the other sociolinguistic facts that happen at other media.

In mass media, a minority language has terrible disadvantages. But in the blogosphere's long tail, in that flat region consisting of a myriad blogs, each one with its own micro-audience, the average blog has the same potential, be it in English or in Basque. In the future, everyone will have 15 subscribers. I read somewhere that version of the famous Warhol phrase (cannot find the quote's origin now). That will be true for English bloggers as well as for Basque bloggers. An English blog has, obviously, opportunities to become much more read or subscribed that anything a Basque may conceive. But that's only for those that are located on the left side of the Long Tail curve. But the average blog, most blogs, are not there, but on the flat side, on the l-o-o-o-o-ong tail. There, they are undistinguishable from the average Basque blog.

The cost for personal media, blogs, is zero. No disadvantage there either. In mass media, that's radically different. Costs are much bigger, because market laws work powerfully against the income possibilities of the minority language media. And when media are born in a minority language, they can only cover a part of the interests of users. Only the dark side of the Long Tail (see image above) can be covered by Basque language TV or papers: For instance, in Sports, there is information about soccer or cycling in Basque media, but not a single line about chess. However, we just need an chess-fan with a blog to post things in Basque, and there it is, it will have its microaudience...

However, this optimistic viewpoint of mine is not proven by anything. Just a thought. Maybe studies will come.

Moreover, I think that what I say applies only to individual blogs. On the blogosphere level, the community or communal voice that creates new info, opinions or memes that expand from one blog to another, or from blogosphere into non-virtual society, there, it's different: the size of blogosphere in a given language has true importance, I guess. Not only by the numbers of bloggers than can unite to create a collective voice. Also because aggregation tools work much more smoothly in those languages, and contribute to expand ideas fastly in English than in Basque.

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Luistxo works in CodeSyntax, tweets as @Luistxo and tries to manage the automated newssite Niagarank. This Cemetery is part of a distributed multilingual blog (?!). These are the Basque and Spanish versions:

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