The Long Tail

It isn’t a cake (left photo above) in a bakeoff, nor is it a multi-user dragon tail costume (right photo above) worn for Halloween by the AdSense team. It’s a principle that rakes in billions but manages to “feel for all the people.” How?

“…[by] shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail.

As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers.”

— Chris Anderson’s lens on “The Long Tail

This could be the simplest illustration. Referring again to the graph cake above, red represents the area of the hits (blockbusters, chart-toppers, etc.), while yellow represents all other tastes consumed by the masses. With a really long tail, the yellow area becomes much larger than the red area — and this translates greater collective profit from the non-hitmakers. Taking the cue from Netflix, Amazon, and Rhapsody, the new Web 2.0 companies dream of making it big with stocking everything popular and not as popular.

Even bloggers see the potential: Hugh Hewitt says “I would rather have 90 percent of the blogs and none of those top ten percent bloggers writing about my book, than I would have all of the top ten percent and none of the 90 percent doing so.”

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