August 14, 2006
Book Short: It Sounds Like it Should be About Monkeys, Doesn’t It?
The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, is a must-read for anyone in the Internet publishing or marketing business. There’s been so much written about it in the blogosphere already that I feel a little lame and “me too” for adding my $0.02, but I finally had a chance to get to it last week, and it was fantastic.
The premise is that the collapsing production, distribution, and marketing costs of the Internet for certain types of products — mostly media at this point — have extended the traditional curve of available products and purchased products almost indefinitely so that it has, in statistical terms, a really long tail.
So, for example, where Wal-Mart might only be able to carry (I’m making these numbers up, don’t have the book in front of me) 1,000 different CDs at any given moment in time on the shelf, iTunes or Rhapsody can carry 1,000,000 different CDs online. And even though the numbers of units purchased are still greatest for the most popular items (the hits, the ones Wal-Mart stocks on shelf), the number of units purchased way down “in the tail of the curve,” say at the 750,000th most popular unit, are still meaningful — and when you add up all of the units purchased beyond the top 1,000 that Wal-Mart can carry, the revenue growth and diversity of consumer choice become *really* meaningful.
The book is chock full o’ interesting examples and stats and is reasonably short and easy to read, as Anderson is a journalist and writes in a very accessible style. You may or may not think it’s revolutionary based on how deep you are in Internet media, but it will at a minimum help you crystallize your thinking about it.