The Long Tail

This article is startling and eye-opening. The future of the world of entertainment is on the fringes, not in mainstream content. A company’s first lesson in making money in this online world is, as Chris Anderson recommends, ‘embrace niches.’ The Long Tail – the downward slump on any company’s sales statistics after the roaring hits – is where the money is made.

Not that kind of long tail, you goof!

That’s the one. Neato!

Below are a few points in the article that really stood out to me.

‘Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hour sin the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots. This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance… Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability… The biggest money is in the smallest scales.’

The internet is unlimited. Like Anderson says, Amazon doesn’t have to cater only to what’s popular to make money. It’s still making money off what bookstores would call ‘misses’. This is really re-emphasised in the quote below:

‘The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles’.

This reminds me of an article I read, written by some whiny retailer who is getting blasted over for online shopping. People will go into his store, try on his clothes and then go home and order the same stuff online for a fraction of the price. They get the convenience of the shopping from a desk, with STACKS more range, without the awful customer service.

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to music: where it’s possible, I’ll buy hard copy CDs. I just love the look of them, sitting in long stacks on my bookshelf. It’s a tradition for me – I’ve got CDs ranging back to my birth, up through the unfortunate pre-teen years and to now. Back then they got a thorough daily workout on my blue Panasonic CD player, but these days it’s more of a hobby, collecting CDs. I’ll upload them onto my computer and will rarely touch them after that. It’s a lifestyle thing, a pretentious arty thing, not a necessity anymore. As such, JB is now offering two for the price of one, and the CD sections are getting smaller and smaller.

But online, Anderson says, ‘almost anything is worth offering on the off chance it will find a buyer. This is the opposite of the way the entertainment industry now thinks.’

And finally: ‘Cut the price in half. Now lower it.’ What an innovative and frightening idea! Anderson seems to be recommending that bookstores, and record companies – as he cites as an example – should throw caution to the wind and embrace the online culture instead of keeping an ‘eye on the downsides of their traditional CD business’. After all, ‘when you lower prices, people tend to buy more.’

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