DEEP THROAT, INC.

By Published on .

It wasn't too difficult to follow the money after the identity of uber-anonymous source Deep Throat was revealed last week.

Just days after a Vanity Fair article outed W. Mark Felt, the book that made Deep Throat famous, "All the President's Men," jumped into the top 30 bestsellers on Amazon.com-skyrocketing from 10,115. The DVD version zoomed from No. 9,546 on May 22 to crack the top 10. Book and DVD store supplies were cleaned out by week's end in New York.

As these artifacts of the Watergate affair got as hot as the latest Dean R. Koontz thriller, the generally downbeat publishing industry was abuzz with talk of $1 million advance for Mr. Felt, a 91-year-old stroke victim. And Simon & Schuster said it would rush Bob Woodward's already-planned meditation on the relationship out next month.

However, the overnight formation-or resurrection-of the Deep Throat culture industry wasn't the most important business lesson to be gleaned from the resolution of American journalism's greatest mystery. That distinction goes to the fact that a now sought-after piece of memorabilia, Mr. Felt's little-read 1979 memoirs, was by and large unavailable. That "The FBI Pyramid From the Inside" is out-of-print during this surprise Watergate renaissance validates a lot of current thinking on niche marketing called the Long Tail.

In an e-mail interview, the Long Tail's creator, Wired magazine Editor in Chief Chris Anderson, agreed that unmet demand for the forgotten memoir, coupled with the renewed interest in Mr. Woodward and Carl Bernstein's book, is an argument against taking books out of print in the digital age. He predicted that "my kids will be as unfamiliar with the concept of `out of print' as they are with dial telephones."

$6,000 `PYRAMID'

"What with the spread of print-on-demand technologies," he wrote, "there's no good reason for any book to become unavailable. They're just bits in a database, searchable and convertible to paper (and revenue) on demand."

His theory broadly holds that, with the cheaper sales and distribution channels made possible by the Internet, a product with niche appeal is as important as the blockbuster.

No one would blame Putnam, Mr. Felt's publisher, for not sustaining "The FBI Pyramid." But now there is demand. On eBay, an autographed copy was going for more than $6,000.

In this article:
Most Popular