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The very long tail

April 15, 2008
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The Long Tail by Chris AndersonI’ve come across this term when I was first introduced to a book “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” written by Chris Anderson. The Long Tail, a phrase coined by Chris Anderson to describe the niche business strategies in the entertainment industry. A really interesting concept that focuses on niche products which is said to be the next big thing in the market. Niche products here meaning items that are non hits, unpopular and difficult to find. The long tail can be found in the many Terabytes of data found in the databases of giant companies such as Netflix, Amazon.com, ITunes and Rhapsody.

Chris Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, which has won a National Magazine Award under his tenure. He started off with an acclaimed Wired article on the long tail that caught the attention of millions of people. He argues the Internet is encouraging an enormous amount of specialized creativity for specialized interests.

What I have discovered from reading The Long Tail is that people are shifting from a focus on a relatively small number of hits and moving towards a huge numbers of niches. With unlimited choices that the internet provides, we tend to want more than just hits. In the past we were so consumed by hits just because of the scarcity effect, the lack of distribution of content, because we didn’t have enough screens to show every movie that is available, because we didn’t have enough shelf space to display all the labels that exists, because we didn’t have enough radio waves to broadcast all the radio channels. The difference of the past and now is simply choices. With the internet we have unlimited screens, channels and shelf space. Giant companies such as Amazon.com and Netflix use this new culture to their advantage by setting up businesses on the internet where people can dig deeper into their catalog down the long, long list of available titles far past what’s available at Blockbuster Video and Tower Records.

Hits are still hits. They are great because if they weren’t, then they wouldn’t be called hits. They still amount as the majority of the total sales for these giant companies but we can see from their database that these markets of niche products are increasing every year. In other words, the fastest growing part of their businesses is sales of products that aren’t available in traditional, physical retail stores.

Long story short, The long tail is an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries that is just beginning to show its power.

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