If you haven’t yet heard – or used – the phrase ‘the long tail,’ you’re not buzzword compliant for 2005.
Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine, coined the phrase in an article that appeared last fall in that magazine. He’s now writing a book on the long tail phenomenon, and along the way, posting to a Weblog.
Here at Supernova, he’s giving a PowerPoint talk (albeit with some elegantly designed slides – mostly graphs).
The long tail is the right-hand end of a power law curve. If you’ve got big hits on the left, you’ve got niche products on the right. Before the Internet, many of those niche products – whether movies, music, or books – had a hard time getting distribution, finding audiences, and generating revenue.
The long tail economy isn’t new; it was born alongside the Internet, and sites like Amazon.com, Yahoo, and eBay, which suddenly rendered shelf space infinite. (Anderson even says that 19th century media like the Sears Catalog can be viewed as early examples of the long tail.)
Anderson says there are three big opportunities in the long tail economy:
- Be an aggregator of both popular and niche content (what Anderson calls ‘head’ and ‘tail’ stuff). Google, Amazon, and eBay do this, for instance.
- Be a niche supplier, and get your music or movies or other stuff aggregated by the players above
- Be a filter, and help people navigate and sort through the bounty of content