Avengers: The return of the short head

ןמכןמןאט 'שר


Last summer was one of the driest in the recent history of the movie industry and the studios tasted the dark and bitter side of the short head but then came 2018 and the Avenger: Infinity war and it changed everything.

Time to re-examine the short head of movies.

When I first started this blog a few years ago, the list of movies that crossed the $1B in revenues was very small.

Today the list includes 35 titles.

Here is a breakdown of these movies by the year of their release.

Let’s see how long it took them to reach that first $1B:

The Titanic, that was released in 1997 and was the first movie to reach $1B, did it in more than 120 days!

Avatar, the 2nd film to reach $1B did it in almost 20. It was in 2009.

The new kid on this block, the avengers: Infinity war, did it in less than 2 weeks.

Here is how long it took the fastest films to reach $500M:

It took the Avengers one weekend!

In 2 weeks the Avengers have broken 2 huge records: (1) The fastest movie to cross the $1 billion mark at the global box office and (2) Best ever US opening weekend box office.

We can’t wait for the 2nd part…

For more short headed movies click here.

  • The charts are missing the fast and furious. Sorry. Sue me.



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“I wish I was special”

Posted first on Jan 2014

So why are we so not unique?

Why don’t we fulfill our rebellious charming unique personalities and run to discover the wonderful gigantic fields of the long tail?

Why do we buy the same T-shirts, tablets or Apps? Why do we go to the same movies and concerts? Why can’t we be more fucking special?

The short answer is that we are all basically conformists. We match our attitudes, believes and behavior to our group norms. It helps us feel belong, a part of the group and it lowers our risk.

Solomon Eliot Asch, a Jewish psychologist who was born in Poland 100 years ago, and lived most of his life in New York, conducted a series of experiments during the 1950’s to explore conformism.

In his most famous experiment he gathered a group of college student to participate in a task – they were shown a card with one line and another card with 3 lines in different lengths and then had to choose which line of the 3 had the same length as the one in the first card. The thing is that except for one student, the rest of the group members were actually actors and they were given specific instructions on how to respond to each trial, in some cases they all gave the same wrong answer and in some they all gave the correct one. The results were clear – The one student who was tested and didn’t know about the play he was part of, was highly influenced by the other members and used to make the same mistakes they did. Even when he knew the answer and thought that the others were wrong he would choose their wrong answer as well.

Solomon Eliot Asch conformism experiment
Solomon Eliot Asch conformism experiment

“If everyone has one, I want one too”

The social influence that makes us pick the same picks like everybody else is also known as Social proof – We assume that the people that surround us know better and have more knowledge about stuff and therefore by imitating what they are doing we believe that we behave correctly.

This may also be referred as “the bandwagon effect” – the probability of any individual to adopt (a new trend, product, ideas) increases with the proportion of those who have already adopted. As more people adopt or believe in something, the others “hop on the bandwagon” regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override.


Don’t hesitate, Manipulate!

Our conformism can be used and manipulated. For example, the 16th century French poet, Jean Daurat, used to buy tickets to his own plays and give them for free to people, who in return agreed to applause.

When they started clapping their hands, the rest of the audience followed, thinking that their clapping was a signal of the performance’s quality.

Same goes to fake laughter in TV shows. The studios found that even though viewers find it annoying, they perceive sitcoms that use canned laughter as funnier than shows that don’t. Fake laugh tracks are less common today but can still be heard for example in “How I Met Your Mother” and other series. A recent study was done in 2011 by Psychologist Bill Kelley who checked the human brain’s response to humor. His findings were that “We’re much more likely to laugh at something funny in the presence of other people. Hearing others laugh — even if it’s prerecorded — can encourage us to chuckle and enjoy ourselves more”.

We will talk further about manipulating in order to become a short head winner later on…


“Feel what I feel, do what I do, like what I like”

Our conformism also applies when it comes to Likes.

It turns out that if you Like this post on Facebook it would help me get more likes from other people.

On august 2013, the science magazine published the research of Lev Muchnik, Sinan Aral and Sean J. Taylor, who checked how prior ratings such as Likes affect our rating. Their findings were that “positive social influence increased the likelihood of positive ratings by 32% and created accumulating positive herding that increased final ratings by 25% on average”.

As one of the researchers said: “Hype can work and feed on itself as well”. These findings are very interesting as they also shake the foundations of the “wisdom of the crowd” theory. If we are so influenced by other people thoughts and ratings, then the crowd is not really a crowd but a small group of people who spoke first and a big group of people that followed and accepted what the first group said.


This music sucks! I LOVE IT

A very interesting demonstration of this “Hype that can feed on itself” in music was given to us by Salganik, Dodds & Watts in 2006.

In their experiment they created an artificial online “music market”. 14,341 participates, most of them teenagers, were shown a list of 48 unknown songs from unknown bands. Half of them were able to see how many people already downloaded each of the songs (let’s call them “the touchables”), and the other half didn’t get any former information about the songs (“the untouchables”).

Each participant was asked to listen to whatever songs he chooses from the list and then rate it (1-5). They could also download the song to their computer after they had listened to them.

The result was very interesting – the popular songs of the touchables were much more popular than the popular songs of the untouchables and the un-popular songs of the touchables was less popular than the un-popular songs of the untouchables. In other words the early success led to much bigger future success just like a prophecy that fulfills itself. The hits became mega-hits.

Probability of listen vs. market rank
Probability of listen vs. market rank

The social influence helped the popular songs to become much more popular. The reasons that this, and other similar studies, offered are that people use the popularity of products as a signal of quality and because they are conformists they think that they will benefit from coordinating their listening choices (and also reading and watching) with the choices of others.

But you haven’t heard the interesting stuff yet…

A few years later, in 2008, they released another study.

Once again they invited people to a false “music market” with 48 tracks. Only that this time after gathering rating and downloads data from the first 2,211 participants, they created a new version of the site in which they inverted the popularity order of the songs – the most popular song (based on the first 2,211 participants) which reached 128 downloads was swapped with the less popular song that had reached only 9 downloads. The second most popular song was swapped with the second less popular and so on.

After introducing the new fake version of the site to more participants and gathering their data the results were amazing.

The fake number one track (which was apparently not very good based on the real downloads of the first group of participants) gained many downloads while the fake number 48 (which was actually the most popular among the first group) did quite badly.

Downloads vs. subjects
Downloads vs. subjects

If you are happy, I am happy

Social influence doesn’t stop at opinions. It goes down to emotions as well.

In June 2014 Jamie E. Guillory and Jeffrey T. Hancock from Cornell university, together with Facebook data science team member Adam D. I. Kramer, released a study called: Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks.

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people and it has been studied for many years.

The new study wanted to examine the effect of Social media on Emotional contagion.

The massive experiment (almost 700 thousands Facebook users)  revealed that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.

The experiment that took place during one week in January 2012 manipulated the extent to which Facebook users were exposed to emotional expressions in their News Feed – They reduced the positive posts in the feeds of people in one and for the other group they reduced the negative posts.

The results showed emotional contagion. People who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, posted more negative status updates and People who had negative posts reduced posted more positive status updates.

Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks

The study got a lot of criticism from lawyers, internet activists and politicians. “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.” said Jim Sheridan, a member of the Commons media select committee in the UK.

Clay Johnson, the co-founder of Blue State Digital, the firm that built and managed Barack Obama’s online campaign for the presidency in 2008 also referred to the experiment asking: “”Could the CIA incite revolution in Sudan by pressuring Facebook to promote discontent? Should that be legal? Could Mark Zuckerberg swing an election by promoting Upworthy [a website aggregating viral content] posts two weeks beforehand? Should that be legal?”


We are all special!


At least that is what we tell our kids.

Most of us are basically conformists, we don’t have our own opinions on most things and even when we do, we tend to put them aside and follow the herd.

Should it make us feel bad about ourselves?

Well, it’s up to you.

Oh, no it isn’t…

Ask somebody



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You spin me right ’round, baby, right ’round – Part two

hula hoop - the short head of toys

So in the first part we talked about the beginning of the fidget spinner and how it all started. Time to understand why did it happen, what had happened before and how did it end.

back to part one

The word of mouth, this time mainly in the form of YouTube, Reddit and Instagram videos that were uploaded and distributed by kids and opinion leaders, caught like fire and created a fast diffusion and adoption.

Since the Fidget spinners were a plaything that children discovered and shared on social media in this case the demand came solely from word of mouth. No manufacturer or store or any marketing and PR efforts had anything to do with it.

This is a splendid example of the bass diffusion model and of the crucial role of word of mouth. A new product can do great with only the Q (= internal influence meaning word of mouth) and no P (= external influences like PR) whatsoever.

Other stress release toys that were out there before the spinner (like the stress balls and the fidget cube) didn’t get this amount of word of mouth and therefore stayed behind.

By the end of June, the number of spinners that were sold in the 12 rich-world countries was estimated somewhere between 20 to more than 200 million.


  (4)  The Spinner Race

The sudden out of nowhere demand for Spinners and the fact that no person or firm had a patent on it and that there were no licensing fees required, pushed the toy retailers and manufacturers to rapidly produce and get Spinners.

Big Chinese factories, often such that manufactured smartphone accessories, started producing spinners in huge quantities, but many others started producing smaller amount using 3-D printing.

The absence of an exclusive manufacturer or a patent holder not only enabled everybody to produce but it also enabled everybody to buy and sell since there were no exclusive distribution agreements and no high brand licensing costs.

That has been a blast for entrepreneurs like Ryan Weaver, Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss but also for all the small shops, which had been able to adjust fast and stock the unbranded goods from wherever they could lay their hand on them.

Let’s take Zing for example, a toy manufacturer from Hong Kong. Zing saw the potential in real time, reacted fast and shipped millions of units in no time, some of it to toysRUs and Walmart.

“The biggest toy I’ve seen in at least 10 years, and it’s been a total free-for-all. It’s not a big-bucks driven, premeditated thing. It blew up the opposite way… The big giants [Hasbro and Mattel] typically take up 90 to 95 per cent of the business and everyone else is left scrapping. This has flipped the script…it’s about how quickly you can react.” said Josh Loerzel, VP of sales and marketing for Zing to FT.com.

In other interviews  he said that “A fidget spinner is great for smaller companies because we can react quickly, and get the orders, we can ship fast… Shipping several million pieces a month that still constitutes such a small piece of the actual overall demand – For a small company like us, it’s a godsend.”


  (5)  Sixty years earlier – You know, for kids

The fidget spinner is not the first toy to reach the short head in a boom.

A simple plastic hoop did it 60 years ago.

25 million units of the Hula Hoop were sold in four months. In two years the number increased to 100 million.

It’s a bit longer than it took the Spinners to reach these numbers but considering that we are talking about the sixties when there was no Internet and international trading was much more difficult, it’s a short head miracle.

How did they do it?

Although they didn’t have internet back then and there were no YouTubers to spread the word, they still had kids as their target audience and kids were still talking and communicating – They did it at school, on the street, in the playground.

In fact, because they didn’t have Internet, YouTube or Xbox machines, kids back then spent much more time playing and meeting with other kids outside.

Wham-O, the toy company that invented and produced the modern Hula Hoop, understood the importance of word of mouth and gave away free Hula hoops to start the buzz and it worked.

the hudsucker proxy – A great presentation of Word of mouth in action

The Hula Hoops became a signature example of a viral fad that spread through a population.

The same happened with the Rubik’s cube in 1981 and the Tamagotchi in the late 90s, both very popular games that sold themselves through word of mouth.

What changed between then and now is the internet, social media, and smartphone with cameras. This is what caused the spinners to catch on the fastest.

Kids today don’t need to see their friend or neighbor spin in order for the word of mouth effect to happen. They can see a complete stranger do it on YouTube or Instagram, amplifying the effect.

The spinners case is an extreme example of the short head economy.

In the last several years, since the appearance of social media, we are facing a change in the demand curve. The hits, AKA the blockbusters, on the left side of the demand curve are getting fewer and higher and the long tail on the right side of the curve—the big promise of the internet— is still long but most of it is so close to zero that it is embarrassing.

The Pareto 20/80 principle, a symbol for the unfair distribution of anything, is something that we now look back at with Lust. In the “short head” era it is more like a 90/10 or in some cases a 99/1 principle. We would give anything to get back to the just world of the 20/80.

  (6)  Global warming

Here is an interesting chart of the search trends of fidget spinner in various locations demonstrating the fast global diffusion which is a direct result of the Internet and Social media.

search trends of fidget spinner in various locations


  (7)  Epilog: I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

On May 4 2017, one day before the Spinners officially reached their peak, Catherine Hettinger, who by then became known and famous for being the inventor of the fidget spinner, launched a Kickstarter campaign, trying to raise enough money to help her manufacture the original spinning toy.

From Hettinger’s kickstarter page

On June 18, after getting less than 1,000 orders and not reaching her funding goal, the project was abandoned.

As for the Spinners, as said they reached their peak on May 5th. From there it was a Slippery slope all the way down to the museum of toys.

In the fidget spinner case, the short head winners were the product itself and quite a large group of Chinese manufacturers, fast retailers and online sellers.

Catherine Hettinger, just like most of us, will remain a bystander.


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You spin me right ’round, baby, right ’round – Part one


How did the peace-making toy from the 1980s became the fastest growing hit in history and why did it take 37 years? Who got famous for it but not wealthy and who got wealthy but not famous?

Seven stories and anecdotes about a seven dollar toy (and some others) that demonstrate almost every principle of the short head theory.

Oh, and no. We are not talking about the hula hoop. Yet…

  (1)  Prolog: The pleasant sensation of spinning

It all didn’t start on a sunny balcony of a third-floor apartment in Jerusalem back at the 1980s.

Catherine Hettinger spent a summer in Israel with her daughter and after watching Palestinian kids throw stones at police officers and since she was looking for something to play with anyway, Catherine came up with an idea for a toy.

A toy that could offer an alternative to throwing stones and eventually could put an end to the violence, make peace in the middle east and make Catherine a bit wealthier.

In 1992 after selling early handmade versions of her toy in local art fairs, and before someone stills her idea, she went down to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and filed for a patent.

“A toy device which includes a center dome structure and a skirt is used as a spinning toy. It is designed to be spun on the finger to provide enjoyment and entertainment for adults and children.”

This was the abstract of Hettinger’s patent. The background was also explained in these words:

“Many people are desirous of a simple diversion when they are caught in traffic or would like something to do with their hands. Sports are out of the question in the car or inside the house. It is normal and natural to want to move or fidget. People who are quitting smoking often desire something to use to occupy themselves. Presently, there are no devices which fit this criteria that can provide the pleasant sensation of spinning that this toy can.”

After her patent was granted, 4 years later, she went to pitch it to Hasbro, the big toys company, at a major toy convention.

Hasbro people looked at Hettinger spinning her weird little frisbee on her finger but apparently weren’t too impressed.

They turned her down.

Eight years later when Hettinger got tired of paying her periodical fees for her patent she gave it up.


  (2)  Twenty something years later – From hunting Pokémons to “fidget” gadgets 

The year is 2016. It’s Summer. Kids don’t get bored anymore. They have smartphones and tablets, Instagram and YouTube.

When they want to play outside they go hunting Pokémons.

In fact Pokémon Go becomes the fastest mobile game to reach $500 million in worldwide customer spending on iOS and Android.

It is also the most downloaded app in its first week ever and the fastest to reach 50 million installs on Google Play.

A short head winner for sure (In case you haven’t read the post about the short head of Apps now would be a good time to do so).

Pokemon go

But not everybody is hunting Pokémons. Take 26 years old Ryan Weaver for example.

Ryan who was recently laid off from his job is too busy looking for a new one.

In October 2016 Ryan’s wife, a special education teacher, asked him to buy “fidget” gadgets for her class.

He found her some spinners and thought it could be interesting to try selling it on Amazon.

When he opened his store on Amazon there were only few sellers offering fidget spinners.  Walmart and most of the toy retailers didn’t even know what Spinners were and had no plans of selling it.

At the same time Allan Maman, a 17 years old ADHD high school student, was also looking for a toy that could help him concentrate. He found a fidget spinner on Etsy.

Just like Ryan, Maman also thought he could make a business out of it only that unlike Ryan, he decided to 3-D print his spinners and then sell them directly.


I should probably start attending my classes

A post shared by Allan Maman (@maman) on

After taking some lessons in 3-D printing and finding fidget spinners blueprints, Maman teamed up with his friend Cooper Weiss and they started creating hundreds of spinners with the school’s machines.

They took the money they made selling spinners to their classmates, bought a 3-D printer and continued to produce more spinners in Weiss’ parents’ basement.

Nobody really knows how and why then but around that time spinners started catching up slowly.

In December Forbes got the spinners out of the closet stating that: “Fidget Spinners Are The Must-Have Office Toy For 2017”.

It took another two months until they made their first major appearance at the North American International Toy Fair in February of 2017 but it was only around April 2017 when it suddenly boomed!

On may 2nd, the 20 most popular items in the games and toys category on Amazon were all different versions of fidget spinners.

At that time 20 percent of all toy and game units sold daily were in fact spinners.


By then former undeployed Ryan Weaver’s was selling 500 to 1,000 spinners a day for $17.95 a unit and Maman and Cooper sold $350,000 worth of spinners through their 150,000 followers on Instagram.

People in the toy and retail industry were unanimous – They have never seen anything boom so fast and so huge as the fidget spinners.

“Right now we are in the midst of the biggest, fastest moving trend that I have ever seen in the toy industry,” says Jackie Breyer, editorial director for The Toy Insider.

“The fidget spinners are the biggest craze for any product Walmart has seen in the past five years” said Michelle Malashock, Walmart’s spokesperson to FT.com.



  (3)  You must try it!

The main driver of the spinners popularity was their adoption by popular YouTubers. Online stars and amateur devotees started posting all kinds of Fidget Spinner content, from tricks and stunts to unboxings and customizations.

Among the first spinner video trending on YouTube was “CRAZY FIDGET TOYS YOU MUST TRY!” from Guava Juice 2 that was released on March 18. After this, it accelerates quickly. A few days later Good Mythical Morning released “Are Fidget Toys Bad For You?” and “Playing With Top Fidget Toys”, and since then, fidget-related content has risen steadily.

In the first 12 days of June, there were 9.9 fidget spinner videos in the top trending list on average, up from 7.5 videos on an average day in May and 1.4 videos on an average day in April.

More than 2 million videos were uploaded between May and July 2016.

Today there are more than 6 million videos of spinners online.

Number of Spinner video (in thousands) on YouTube over time

Go to part 2


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The dark side of the short head

The dark side of the short head

“Hollywood’s Summer From Hell”, “Time to Panic: Inside the Movie Business’ Summer of Hell” and “Summer Sweat: Hollywood Braces for Possible Worst Box Office in Decade”. These are some of the headlines describing the movie industry this summer.

According to Bloomberg, domestic box office revenue for the season are 11 percent lower than last year and expected to get up to 15 percent lower as none of the major releases still coming is expected to change that trajectory.

Many of the analysts and reporters blame it on social media – “Summer Box Office Revenue Is Really Bad and Social Media Isn’t Helping” or “The “Rotten Tomatoes effect catches up with blockbuster bait, leaving critically acclaimed films in the money”.

The truth is that what they are experiencing is the dark side of the short head.


Summer school

In general, the movie industry is doing well and growing,

source:  www.the-numbers.com

The few short head winners are booming while most of the long tail losers… well, lose.

In 2015 five movies entered the 1 billion-dollar revenues club: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (above 2 billion dollars so far), Jurassic World (1.67 billions), Furious 7 (1.5), Avengers: Age of Ultron (1.4) and Minions (1.16).

In 2016 four movies entered the 1 billion-dollar revenues club: Captain America: civil war (1.14), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1.05), Finding Dory (1) and Zootopia (1).

In 2017 so far there are two: Beauty and the Beast (1.26) and The Fate of the Furious (1.24), but it seems that Despicable Me 3, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and maybe also Wonder woman will join them.

So why is this summer so gloomy?


500 days of summer 

After years of prosperity and experiencing the comforting bright side of the short head, the big studios are tasting more of its dark sweaty side and it is scary.

It is not like they didn’t have huge flops in the last several years. They sure had, but the thing is the quantity.

When you are making less movies, investing much more money in each one hoping that at least few of them will hit the short head, the risk raises. If you have one or two flops you can get over it but if you have more than that you might get in serious financial trouble.

Steven Spielberg anticipated something like this several years ago when he said in an interview: “You’re at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring, than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal — and even maybe historical — projects that may get lost in the shuffle because there’s only 24 hours…There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again”.


Friday is the new weekend

So why is it happening and what is the fault of social media?

Well, the social media, the main responsible for the short head blockbuster winners and the record breaking movies from the last several years, is also the main accountable for the biggest flops.

In 2008, Universal McCann published one of the most important researches on word of mouth, examining 17,000 respondents in 29 countries. The research name was: “when did we start trusting strangers?”.

One of their findings was that movies are the most “reviewed” type of products, brands or services on the web. Almost 60% of the respondent said they had reviewed films online.

The word of mouth about movies works both ways – it turns some movies into rapid mega hits and at the same ease and speed it ruins others.

Let’s take the first big flop of the year: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The movie cost $175 million. In its opening weekend, it made only $15M. in the following weekend it went down to $7M! more than 50% drop.

What has happened during that week? Well, many bad reviews (scored less than 30 in rotten tomatoes) and disappointed audiences talking about it on social media.

The Emoji movie, another more recent flop, made $10M on its first Friday, $8.7M on Saturday and only $5.8M on Sunday. The drop was faster and occurred during the weekend itself. In the following Sunday, the number went down to $3.3M.

Why? Same reasons – 58% of the viewers didn’t recommend it and so did 92% of the critics.

The bad viewers reviews don’t wait till Monday like the newspapers once did. Therefore, the decline has happened during the weekend.

The so called “Rotten Tomatoes” effect didn’t start now.

8 years ago, on the weekend of July 10, 2009, Brüno, the Sacha Baron Cohen mockumentary comedy, was released. The numbers on Friday were pretty good, reaching 14.4 million dollars, but 24 hours later, on Saturday night, it collapsed by 40%. All the other top movies that were playing that weekend presented an increase from Friday to Saturday.


This is how they explained it back then at the TIME: “In the age of Twitter, electronic word-of-mouth is immediate, as early moviegoers tweet their opinions on a film to millions of “followers.” Instant-messaging can make or break a film within 24 hours. Friday is the new weekend….”


I know what you did last summer

Two other worth mentioning short head principles that played their role this summer:

Remember the bass diffusion model?

“We had one of the best summers ever in terms of the content,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst for ComScore Inc. If you ask the critics you will find that this summer we had some great movies. In fact, the most watched films of the season had an average score of 72 on Rottentomatoes.com, an aggregator of reviews. A very high score compared to previous years.

Which brings us to the understanding that in the era of the short head, critics reviews, as well as traditional media and PR play a minor part in the potential success of a movie. The word of mouth is the most crucial factor.

The second thing is about safety.

Usually making a sequel or a remake are a safe bet. Not this year.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” generated barely half as much domestic revenue as the previous film in the series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, “The Mummy” and “Baywatch” were also far from expectations.

on the other hand, we saw small budget movies booming and performing much better than expected.

So, what’s the point? Making a sequel or a remake are a safer bet. Not a safe one.


Meanwhile in another dimension…

So probably the movie industry will not break its short head winner records this year (like it did 2 years ago with Star Wars: The Force Awakens) but look what has just happened on YouTube.

Earlier this year “Gangnam Style” the music video from 2012 has been kicked out of the top spot on YouTube by “See You Again” by Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa from 2015.

Last week “See You Again” was overthrown by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee “Despacito” that was released only in… 2017.

Got it? The first music video to reach 3 billion views needed 5 years to do so, the second one needed 2 and the third needed 6 months!

At least someone is seeing the sunny side of the short head this summer.



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Disney, Drake and Nintendo – The biggest short head winners of 2016


In case you haven’t read enough 2016 end of the year reports by now here is one really important! A short all you need to know post regarding 2016 and the state of the short head.

Let’s start with movies.

Remember this chart from 2012?

2002 - 2012 the short head of movies

It showed that while in 2002 15% of the movies that were playing took 80% of the revenues from selling tickets (and the other 85% took 20%), in 2012 the same 15% took 90% of the revenues and the remaining 85% took only 10% of the revenues.

Well, we have checked it now again and this is what we got for 2016:

the short head of movies 2016

In 2016 the same 15% of the movies that were playing took not 80% of the revenues like they did in 2002, not 90% like they did in 2012… This year they took 95%!

The reminding long tail loosers (619 movies!) took only 5% of the revenues from selling tickets in 2016.

The top 10 blockbusters in 2002 took 27% of the total revenues of movie tickets that year. In 2012 the top grossing 10 movies were responsible for 30% of the annual movie tickets revenues. In 2016 the 10 top grossing movies took 35%.

In 2002 50% of the revenues were taken by 6% of the movies that were playing. In 2012 it was taken by 3.6%. in 2016 it was taken by 2.6%!

Get the picture?

The short head winners are winning even more.

It does seem like the small studios are adjusting to the short head economy and making less films. In 2012 there were 802 new movie releases while in 2016 there were only 728, almost 10% less.

Some other important short head winners that are worth mentioning:

  • Drake’s “One Dance” becomes 1st song to get streamed 1bn times on Spotify. Read more.
  • The Weeknd Breaks Record for Most Spotify Streams in 24 Hours by a Single Artist. Read more.
  • Disney is definitely this year’s short head winner! “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” helped the studio become the first to earn $7bn in a year. Read more.
  • Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Trailer Sets Record for Most Views in 24 Hours. Read more.
  • Finding Dory set record for biggest domestic opening for an animated film. Read more.
  • Super Mario ran all the way to the short head! Breaks Record In The History Of App Store, Downloaded Almost 3 Million Times On Its First Day! Read more.
  • HBO’s Westworld series has broken another record making it one of the network’s most successful shows. The sci-fi reportedly drew in more than 2.2 million viewers when it was aired on HBO at 9pm in the US. Read more.
  • Pokémon Go became the most downloaded app in a first week ever and broke some other records on the way. Read more.

Welcome 2017.

May the short head be with you.

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Talking about “The 10 rules of the Short head”

Do you ever feel like you are kind of unique? That you have special interests, taste or hobbies?

Now think of the last movie you saw, the last book you read, the last App you downloaded or the last music concert you went to.

Were they by any chance popular?

Very Popular?

Probably yes.

10 years ago Chris Anderson presented the Long Tail theory claiming that because the Internet offers unlimited space and infinite choice, it enables us to satisfy our narrow unique interests and the true shape of demand is revealed.

It suggested that “Our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail”

Well… The Internet does offer unlimited space and infinite choice but the result is exactly the opposite.

We became much more hit-centric than ever and the blockbusters became bigger than ever.

“The 10 rules of the Short head” talk shows how and why the Internet (combined with our basic human nature) turned our economy more and more into “the-winner-takes-it-all” economy instead of a long tail one, as we were promised 10 years ago.

We will see how it happens in music, film, mobile apps, fashion, books and other industries, we will understand the reasons and learn how we can lower the risk of becoming long tail losers and become short head winners.

Now let’s do some name dropping so you can understand what we will actually talk about:

Star wars, Seinfeld, Angry birds, Mark Zuckerberg, sneakers, Avatar, Italy, Steve Jobs, James Cameron, Friends, Drake, Nintendo, Netflix, Madonna, Busted Tees, Psy, 50 shades of Grey and many more.

It is a combination of economy, Internet, psychology, marketing and entertainment.

The “10 rules of the short head” presentation was already seen by more than 10,000 people around the world and got hundreds of shares and great reviews. Here are some of them:

Udi Shamai – CEO & owner Pizza Hut Israel

“One of the most interesting lectures I have ever heard. It was clear and smart, the flow was excellent. Dan, you have earned a fan.”

Prof. Barak Libai – Professor at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya

“Dan is an innovative business leader with unique and stimulating views on the changing business environment we are all part of. My students, MBA’s many of whom have rich experience in product markets, found his guest lecture on the “10 rules of short head” very interesting and thought provoking”

Amit Ranjan – Founder and CEO Slideshare.com

“We know the “Long Tail”… now here comes theShort Head

For more details and reservations: [email protected]

אפשר לקבל אותה גם בעברית.

“10 החוקים של הראש הקצר”

עומר אדם, הענק הירוק ונגר מפורטנייט נכנסים למסעדה. מה הקשר למדע?

לפני קצת יותר מעשר שנים כתב העורך של מגזין wired רב מכר שנקרא “הזנב הארוך”. 

הוא טען שבזכות האינטרנט והאפשרות להציע מגוון אינסופי של הכל (ספרים, סרטים, חולצות, משחקים וכו’) הכלכלה תתרחק מעולם מוטה להיטים לכיוון של עולמות נישה, בהם כל אחד יוכל להגשים את האינדיבידואליות שלו ולצרוך את מה שמתאים לו בדיוק.

עשר שנים אחרי אפשר לומר בוודאות שהוא טעה.

במקום זנב ארוך קיבלנו את הראש הקצר.

כולנו רואים את אותם סרטים, שומעים את אותה מוסיקה ומשחקים באותם משחקים בדיוק.

למה זה קורה? האם יש פה חוקיות? ואיך אפשר לדאוג שנהיה לראש ולא לזנב?

על זה בדיוק נדבר. בסוף זה גם יתרכז לנוסחה מתמטית אחת פשוטה.

בהרצאה נכיר את 10 החוקים של הראש הקצר ונראה הרבה מאד דוגמאות וסיפורים מעולמות שונים – קולנוע, מוסיקה, פסיכולוגיה, סוציולוגיה, משחקי וידאו, כלכלה, סלולר, שיווק, אופנה, טלויזיה, ספרות ועוד.

נבקר באיטליה, ונצואלה, הוליווד, הבית הלבן ובכמה אוניברסיטאות, נפגוש את סיינפלד, פורטנייט, רוס מהסדרה חברים, קנדי קראש, אובמה, סטיבן שפילברג, ג’יימס קמרון, אנגרי בירדז, עומר אדם, דיוויד בואי, הנוקמים, 50 גוונים של אפור, המתים המהלכים, סטיב ג’ובס, נטפליקס, צ’רלי שין וכמובן… מארק צוקרברג.

“10 החוקים של הראש הקצר” נצפתה בשנה האחרונה על ידי למעלה מ- 10,000 איש ברחבי העולם וזכתה למאות שיתופים וביקורות מעולות.

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“I don’t think it’s realistic to try and topple ‘Titanic’ off its perch” / The short head of movies (part 1)


“I don’t think it’s realistic to try and topple ‘Titanic’ off its perch”

This is what James Cameron, the director of the movie Titanic, said in an interview to MTV on December 2009, few days before his movie, Avatar, was released.

The movie Titanic was released in 1997 and since then held the record of highest grossing film of all times and the first movie to reach one billion dollars.

No wonder that Cameron was afraid to declare that he aims higher. Nobody was able to break his “Titanic” record for 12 years. Why would he be the one to do it now?

He did.

It didn’t take “Avatar” long to break both records of the Titanic – becoming the number one grossing film of all times and the first movie to reach 2 billion dollars.

But Avatar is just an example. In the last several years the blockbusters became huge. The movie hits are now mega-hits.

Only last week we saw another example of the mega hit potential of new movies when the remake movie “Jurassic World” broke every opening-weekend record and reached more than half a billion dollars in one weekend!

Only 21 movies ever have reached 1 billion dollars until today – 16 of them were released in the last 7 years! Another 2 were released earlier in the 2000th and the last 3 were released in 1997, 1999 and in 1993.

connect the dots

Here is the winners list:

21 movies have reached 1 billion$ revenues
21 movies have reached 1 billion$ revenues

Source: www.boxofficemojo.com

So what happened to the movies in the last couple of years that they are so huge now? Where did all these Hits come from? What happened to the long tail and why are we all going to the same movies turning them into such big hits?

Read the next 2 posts about the short head of the movie industry…


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The long tail killed the long tail – Long live the short head

In 2006, Chris Anderson presented the long tail theory, which claimed that the Internet enables to offer a long tail of less-popular products and not just blockbusters.

It also said that when consumers are offered infinite choice, the true shape of demand is revealed and that it is less hit-centric than we thought and that our culture and economy are shifting away from a small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve toward a huge number of niches in the long tail.

What really happened in the last couple of years is the opposite.

We turned more and more into hit oriented. The shape of the demand curve got sharper – the head got higher and the long tail got longer but it is tangent to the X axis of the chart.

Let’s take the movie industry for example – In 2002 there were 475 films playing in the US. The 15% most popular films took less than 80% of the revenues. The long tail (meaning the remaining 85%) took the other 20%. In 2012 there were 677 movies playing in the US (an increase of 42%) but now the 15% most popular movies took more than 90% of the revenues leaving the longer tail with less than 10% (a decrease of 50%).

This change is also revealed if we look at the revenues of the blockbusters over time. Till today only 18 movies made more than 1 billion dollars in revenues – 13 of them were released in the last several years. Avatar (2009) was the first movie to make more than 2 billion dollars.

The same change in the demand curve also appeared in the music industry (tickets and tracks sales), books and other industries.

The long tail is getting longer but makes less money. The head hits the sky.

Why does it happen?

Why don’t we explore the long tail and express our unique personalities?

First of all we are basically conformists. We have always been. We match our attitudes, believes and behavior to our group norms. It helps us feel belong and it lowers our risk. The internet didn’t change that.

Secondly the internet also gave us “social media”. Thanks to the internet we have much more interactions with people – emails, social networks, IM, Message boards etc. Social interactions are the key for the adoption of new things and ideas – the more interactions we have, the bigger the chances that a new product will catch. This is the very basic of Bass diffusion model. Social media speeded the adoption process and turned us all into a one huge herd that adopts and then buys exactly the same things.

But what really killed the long tail is the long tail itself.

When we see a zombie we run. The long tail is a huge pile of zombies. niche and unpopular items that nobody wants to get near to.

When a long tail confronts us with too many options to choose from, we tend to say – “you know what? I will just stick with that first one you showed me”. We don’t have the time nor the expertise to choose differently.

As Barry Schwartz described best in his book “The Paradox of Choice” – we no longer choose – we pick.

The long tail scares us and sends us running to the warm and comfortable hands of the short head popular blockbuster that everybody likes.

Why do we call it “the short head” and not “the tall head”? Because the lucky ones that make it and get to the head of the curve don’t last long. A new hit is waiting just around the corner to break their record.

This is the era of the short head.


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The sun doesn’t always shine on TV / The short head of television

A few weeks ago I read that AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff  ‘Better Call Saul’ Series Debut broke Cable Ratings Records, reaching a staggering 6.9 million viewers.

Few days later the ‘Two and a Half Men’ Series Finale also scored its Biggest Viewership since April 2013 with an average of 13.5 million viewers from 9 to 10 p.m. making everyone happy.

A month earlier ‘How I Met Your Mother’ series finale also broke another ratings record. The episode was aired on Jan 2015 reaching 12.9 million viewers becoming the show’s most-watched and highest-rated episode of all time.

Do you see where I am getting at?

A year and a half earlier, in Sep 2013, 10.3 million people tuned in to watch the last episode of “breaking bed”. A huge success for the network AMC and a new record for network television (for a show that is not football).

May 2010 – 13.5 million viewers sat through the two-and-a-half-hour long and last episode of ABC series “lost”,” lifting ABC to its best non-Oscars Sunday night in two and a half years and posting what are likely to be the best finale numbers for any scripted show this television season” (according to the New York times)

June 2007 – 11.9 million viewers watched “The Sopranos” finale, “bringing HBO to the edge of a historic feat: a show on a pay cable network available in about 30 million homes was more popular last week than all but one show on the far larger world of broadcast television.” (The Washington post).

The Sopranos Season 6, Episode 21 “Made in America” from Press Play Video Blog on Vimeo.

Starts like a short head classic, doesn’t it?

Well, let’s go 3 years earlier to 2004.

‘Friends’ last episode gets 52.5 million viewers (5 times more than ‘the Sopranos’).

6 years earlier, in 1998, Seinfeld’s last episode reached 76.3 million viewers.

15 years earlier, in 1983, M*A*S*H  final episode reached 105.9 million viewers.

In fact the 10 Most-Watched Series Finales Ever are all kind of old. Very old. Most of them are from another century.

  1. Home Improvement, 1999. 35.5 million viewers.
  2. Family Ties, 1989. 36.3 million viewers.
  3. All in the Family, 1979. 40.2 million viewers.
  4. The Cosby Show, 1992. 44.4 million viewers.
  5. Magnum, P.I., 1988. 50.7 million.
  6. Friends, 2004.52.5 million viewers.
  7. Seinfeld,1998. 76.3 million viewers.
  8. The Fugitive,1967. 78 million people.
  9. Cheers,1993. 80.4 million viewers.
  10. M*A*S*H, 1983. 105.9 million viewers.

Oops, Huston, seems like we have got a problem.

How can the short head explain this list? A short head follower would expect that the list would be assembled by TV shows from the recent years, just like we see in the movie industry.

Is it possible that the TV hits are 10 times lesser today than what they used to be? It completely challenges the first rule of the short head. Also how does it stand with all the “record breaking” headlines of the last couple of months?


Micro content

10years ago, in Jan 2005, Thomas hawk, a digital guy who was also a follower of Chris Anderson’s long tail theory, wrote in his blog:

“If today I watch CSI Miami, but on my weekends go out hang gliding and am a huge hangliding fan, when the California hang gliding championships end up being broadcast through a microcontent platform I will end up watching that instead of CSI.

If today I watch some network television but even more than my network television I love reading author Hunter S. Thompson, and my microcontent platform brings me a talk by Hunter S. Thompson from the University of Wyoming I will end up watching that instead of CSI.

If I am 16 and my favorite band is not what hits the charts but rather the latest skate punk music thing, then the custom skate punk music shows that can easily be created and delivered to my microcontent platform will be much more interesting to me than American Idol.”

Could it be that Hawk’s long tail prediction really occurred and it is responsible for this outcome?

Not really.

There is another much simple explanation.


The elastic aspect of television

How many channels were there when MASH was broadcasted? Here is a hint. You could count them with one hand. Back then there was no long tail. Actually there was hardly any tail at all for TV.

People watched the same things because there was almost nothing else to watch.

The average TV rating numbers started to go down as more TV channels came along and offered a choice of things to watch on TV.

Since 1999 there was a 1,000% surge in the number of scripted series produced for just pay and basic cable.

In a panel of TV producers that was held in June 2014, said John Landgraf. CEO of FX Networks:

“I don’t know that people are aware of this, but if you think about it, for 50 years there were three broadcast networks. So there were probably at any given moment 60 or 70 scripted original series in America. When the fourth [network] came on, probably 80. Best count I have is there will be about 350 scripted original series produced and marketed in the American television market this year… And I think that 350 will probably push to 400 next year.”

But let’s not be mistaken. The absence of new TV series in the 10 Most-Watched Series Finales Ever list is not the effect of a long tail.

This is the result of a very short head of channels with a variety that we didn’t have before.

 The head of the demand curve will always hit the sky when there are no substitutes or alternatives. It is called an inelastic demand curve.


inelastic demand curve


Throughout the years, with the introduction of new channels, the demand curve turned from inelastic to more elastic and the hits lost their heights. It is a change in the demand curve that has nothing to do with the long tail.

Yet in the last couple of years TV has developed a long tail with all kinds of web series and platforms that can now be considered substitutes to the mainstream TV broadcasters.

Some of these long tail videos and creators succeed to reach a very nice number of viewers. Some of them became short head winners in this new category of web video, which we will talk about later on.

However, they haven’t changed much of the economy of TV in terms of the short head and long tail. Most of them joined the endless line of long tail losers. Few of them became short head winners.

What we do see is how social media helps the short head rise above in this new ocean of original video.

Entertainment weekly described it like this: “There’s probably never been a series that’s better demonstrated the awesome and exponential power of catch-up viewing. Breaking Bad was like a virus (or perhaps a drug) that slowly spread for years, then suddenly exploded into a nationwide outbreak. Very late in its run, Breaking Bad went from being that dark show your one TV-savvy friend loves to being the big hit your whole office is talking about. Breaking Bad will not only be remembered as a TV drama that went out on top – creatively, and in terms of popularity – but possibly as a game-changer for underdog TV shows. The second half of the fifth season premiered last month to a stunningly large audience for the long-struggling cult-favorite series, delivering a record 5.9 million viewers. A couple weeks ago, ratings notably rose to 6.4 million viewers. Then last week’s penultimate hour crept up to 6.6 million.For the grand series finale Sunday night, Breaking Bad hit 10.3 million viewers, with a 5.2 rating among adults 18-49.”

The so called “virus”, that word of mouth mechanism that evolves through social media, works like a charm when it comes to original TV series, just like it does with movies, mobile apps and music.

At the end of the day, when we sit down to watch TV, we don’t want to waste our time on micro-content or original content experiments. What we really want to see is what everybody else is seeing and talking about.

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