No more FM radio: the long tail’s revenge!

As promised, here is my notes on the book, The Long Tail.

Author Chris Anderson notes early in the book:

“iTunes killed the radio star.”

and

“Increasingly, the mass market is turning into a mass of niches”.

These are powerful statements, and true, of course. The evidence is all around us. Not only iTunes, but Amazon and Netflix also.

In case it’s not clear, the “tail” referred to in the title is the right side of a distribution curve, where the Y axis represents popularity and the X axis represents demand.

Under the old paradigm, due to various constraints (shelf space, airtime, money) products which have low demand are not carried by mainstream retailers or entertainment providers (TV, radio, movie theaters). There are simply not enough resources to make them availalble.

Under the new paradigm, if you need more storage space, you just buy another warehouse (Netflix, Amazon) or server (iTunes).

Anderson points out that the roots of Long Tail predate the internet: Sears and Roebuck.

In Chapter 4, Anderson helpfully enumerates six themes of the Long Tail:

  1. There are far more niche products than hits.
  2. The cost of reaching these niches is falling dramatically.
  3. The right tools and tecniques offered by sellers can drive traffic further to the right of the Long Tail.
  4. When there’s a supply of niche goods available and customers can find them, the demand curve flattens.
  5. There are so many niches products available that collectively, they can rival the hits.
  6. Once all of this is in place, the natural shape of demand is revealed.

He summarizes thusly:

“A Long Tail is just culture unfiltered by economic scarcity.”

Wow.

There’s so much here, you may as well get the book yourself and read it.

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