Interesting pushback on “The Long Tail” theory — that the new, Internet-created economics paradigm will be selling a lot of products to smaller and smaller niches. (Read the wikipedia entry for a better explanation.)

This Wall Street Journal article points out the data don’t necessarily agree with the Long Tail theory. The author critiques the new book by Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.”

Let’s start this discussion where Mr. Anderson starts his book, with his discovery of what he calls a paradigm-changing statistic. In the introduction, he tells how he learns from Ecast, a music-streaming company, that 98% of its catalog gets played at least once a quarter — much more than most would predict.

This “98 Percent Rule,” as Mr. Anderson names it, suggests the remarkable prospect that no matter how much inventory you put online, someone, somewhere will show up to buy it. He writes, “Everywhere I looked the story was the same. … The 98 Percent Rule turned out to be nearly universal.”

Except it’s not. Ecast told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays.

Even in the infinite universe of the Internet, there’s a fine number of buyers for some products.