Zipf’s Law and long tails

Zipf’s law states that given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Thus the most frequent word will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, etc.:


I was just reading an article about Patreon and how most of the people on Patreon don’t earn very much money. This is also true about Youtube, that most videos uploaded to youtube get almost no views. That most things sold on Amazon sell very few units. From what I understand this is partly Zipf’s law or something like it.

I can’t see away out of this. We can try and make these platforms more accessible and equal, and we should. But it might be the case by making them more accessible new people will join and the bottom will fill up again.

Patreon is enterprise and business software for artists and creators. It’s not a utopia, it’s not a rebellion. It’s still an amazing idea that will give money to people who never would have got that money before. But in their own words it’s software for artists. The hard part of being an artist is still building an audience and making consistent work. Patreon, Youtube, Amazon, and what ever are just tools to get in front of that audience and monetize it.