The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, (2006) Random House
This book discusses how new technology and the increasing connectivity of the web brings unlimited access to both culture and content. The focus is on the economics of business in our wired world.
The move to distribution on demand allows multiple niches, and instead of that old Pareto rule of 80:20 – the shift is to 98% of everything sells something. The argument is that when space does not cost anything, and locality is no longer important (you do not have to physically go in to a shop to buy a CD that they must have in stock anymore), multiple on-offs can replace the old ‘volume few’ rules.
Anderson argues that the dramatic reduction in the cost of connecting, distribution, etc., and new efficiencies in manufacture, marketing and communications can turn previously unprofitable markets into profitable ones. We are moving to the economics of abundance, and a global audience.
He also highlights the death of the blockbuster – films, music and radio rarely get the huge audiences they used to, there is a shift from mass market to niche cultures and certainly cites like eBay and Amazon allow us to find that record that we used to love that everyone else hates – and buy it!
He also highlights how the global ‘word of mouth’ can have such a big impact on sales of products, services and even ideas. Once word gets around that something is good, or conversely, awful, then whatever the marketing department do becomes almost superfluous.
The long tail means we all need to think more carefully about niches, and that for many areas, some of the old rules need throwing out.
There is a website – www.longtail.com which is well worth a look.