It’s all about the tail

was one of our mantras during the early stages of iCan. When we were talking with people from News and other involved divisions in the BBC, we used to use the power-law curve so beloved of the blogosphere to give an analogy of the connection between the 6/7 major national or global stories that feature on the 30-minute evening news programme and the 100s or 1000s of personal, local issues that people could feel empowered to act on.

3 or 4 times a year at least, one of those personal, local issues will propel itself up the power-law curve to become a national or even global story. For instance, the fuel protests in the UK of a few years ago. iCan was about trying to increase that number, by recognising and supporting the continuum that exists between the tail and the top.

Even if not every story, issue or aspiration for change makes it to the top, the community and resources of the tail will provide support, information and inspiration for each new inhabitant of the tail.

The Stephen-Gould-esque aspiration then is reach some kind of self-sustaining equilibrium of activism and achievement there, with plenty of punctuation into the wider public consciousness that the top of the power-law curve represents. Whilst upward-mobility of stories or campaigns until they get onto the ‘broadcast-radar’ is desirable for the BBC as a news-gathering aid, it’s not the primary purpose of the iCan service – which is to create positive outcomes for people in their local civic environment – in the tail.

As Kevin Marks* rightly points out – it’s about low barriers to entry, and as we said, it’s all about the tail.

0 thoughts on “It’s all about the tail”

  1. Having heard the example of the fuel protests used to justify iCan an awful lot in the past, I was wondering what *other* examples there are of “tail” issues bubbling up? Because I’m sure the BBC hasn’t developed this tool just because of one event…

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