Spaghetti Sauce

Malcolm Gladwell has a presentation on TED about spaghetti sauce. (

In this video, he talks about the work of Howard Moskowitz, a statistician. Years ago, a sauce maker hired him to research the question: “What is the best spaghetti sauce?” He found the data that emerged wasn’t ‘useful’ in the traditional sense. A single sauce didn’t win out as ‘the best.’ Instead, people’s preferences varied. For some time the results troubled him. He kept trying to come up with a way of identifying ‘the best.’
One night while he was having dinner in a restaurant, the answer hit him. There is no ‘best’ spaghetti sauce. There were clumps of people who had different tastes in their sauce choice. That’s why the data didn’t coalesce into a single peak.

He went back to the company executives and urged them to give up the quest for a ‘best sauce.’

Instead, he counseled them to several choices under their brand name. That is why, when you go to the super market, you find several types of sauce for each brand name. They’re no longer trying to produce the single best. Now they market to different tastes.

Other marketers caught on to Moskowitz’ marketing plan. After that many product offerings popped up on every aisle in all stores. For many, the good ole days when there were two choices for bread or milk are longed for. But, they will never return.

You could say the same thing about music. Music is divided into many categories. People listen to the music they like and ignore the types they don’t like. There’s no accounting for taste, as the Romans were wont to say. It isn’t long ago that you could go from one region of the country to another and hear a different style of music. That still exists, but in pockets. I’m sometimes surprised to hear a song I’ve never heard before that has been around for decades. Often, it’s in a genre I don’t listen to much.

Likewise, fiction comes in various packages and appeals to different tastes. There is no better genre when it comes to music, food, or fiction. That’s why the best science fiction novel might be laid aside by a true detective reader. They may think it as boring.

Now, e-publishing is biting into what’s published. Small groups of men, often in New York, determined the public’s tastes. With the emergence of e-publishing, the experts are often wrong about reader’s choices. They need to be introduced to Moskowitz.