Sandhill Trek: A Public Space Frank quotes Betsy quoting me at Bloggercon. Here's what I was trying to say:
The net extends the range of the power law distribution.
If you look at relative popularity on the web, using something like Technorati, you get a power law curve that goes all the way down smoothly, to the bottom where you see pages that got just a single link.
If you look at popularity in the publishing world - movies, chart music or books - the curve starts out with a power law, but soon drops like a stone.
That's because in order to get a movie made, a recording contract or a book published, you have to convince somebody that you're going to sell a million tickets, a hundred thousand CDs or tens of thousands of books.
You end up in a zero-sum game, where people pour enormous resources into being number one, because number two is only half as good. The promise of the net is that the power of all those little links can outweigh the power of the top ten.
Tim Oren is saying much the same thing, with a different metaphor.
Hear my original comment. It starts about 59 minutes into this stream.