I have 998 channels of cable TV coming into my house. Once you take out the music-only, pay-per-view, and other specialty channels, there are perhaps 200 or so that have content I might watch. This is a barely manageable number – by using my Y-chromosome super-surfing skills, I can be fairly confident I have a good handle on everything that’s on, and that I am watching the show that maximizes my viewing pleasure. (Or be confident that there’s nothing on that I want to watch, and that I should go read a book or take a walk or something.)
Of course, this system isn’t perfect. I have never seen the majority of TV shows out there. Usually this is OK – I have a pretty good idea what kind of programs Two and a Half Men and Flip This House are, even without ever seeing them, and I’m confident that I can skip them without missing much (that I would enjoy, anyway). But I’ve also never seen The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, or My Name is Earl. For all I know, one of those shows could be PERFECT for my tastes, and replace House as my favourite show. But I soldier on with a kind of blind faith that I am getting the most out of my Toshiba regardless.
But what about when the Long Tail effect starts to permeate broadcast media and there are 1,000 channels? Or a million? How will I know that I am watching the programming that is most suited to me? This is where the Google cloud-mind and the Amazon taste-trackers will really add value. I predict that in less than 10 years, Google will know everything I ever watch and doubtless will be able to tell how much I am enjoying it by measuring the dilation of my pupils and monitoring my pulse. When Google detects that I really like a particular show, it will ask Amazon to mine its recommendation engine for other shows that millions of people who saw the one I’m watching also liked. By fine-tuning its selections over time according to my relative satisfaction, Googlazon will eventually arrive at the ideal mix of programming for my individual requirements.