Monday, December 10, 2007


Books like the Long Tail have popularized the shift from mass to niche culture. In Microtrends, pollster Mark Penn expands the topic area to politics and takes a data-centric view of 75 changes that spell business and political opportunity. The book's overarching thesis is similar to that of the Long Tail's arguing that as citizens and consumers, people are defining themselves in ever smaller segments. This will be tough for marketers, but far worse for political parties as they have to manage ever more diverse coalitions.

The specific nature of the 75 microtrends means that the interest in each chapter will vary greatly. Some will focus on the politically oriented trends and others will be more interested in the cultural ones. I found the growth in participation of individual sports like archery and kayaking and the decline of team sports like basketball and football to be interesting. At first glance it would look like validation of the Bowling Alone concept, but it could also be a reflection of increased access to less traditional sports. Much of the fun of the book is debating the underlying causes of the trends. On a book-related note, Penn notes that the average length of novels read is increasing.

You can read an interview with an author and download a chapter at the book's website. The site discusses a fair amount of the book's content and gives you a chance for a test drive.

Microtrends is published by the Twelve, an imprint that will publish only 12 books a year. It's a bit gimmicky of course, but the implication is that the books are good enough to sell. The latest is the Nuclear Jihadist, a book about AQ Khan.

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