With usual delay I just read Paul Caron’s nice essay The Long Tail of Legal Scholarship that was recently posted on SSRN. Caron contrasts the findings of Tom Smith’s ongoing research project on citations of scholarly works in law review articles with his own analysis of SSRN downloads.
Smith’s citation analysis characterizes legal scholarship, in contrast to what long tail theory would suggest, as a hit-driven market (the top 0.5% of articles get 18% of all citations, the top 17% get 79% of all citations, and 40% of articles get never cited at all.)
Caron, in contrast, argues that the picture changes if one looks at consumption rather than the end use of legal scholarship. Using download counts from SSRN as an alternative measure, Caron demonstrates that the tail is getting much longer and is consistent with the long tail thesis: “… 97% of authors have had at least one download in the past year and 100% have had at least one download at some time.”
See also this post and chart.