Originally published at: https://blog.12min.com/the-long-tail-summary/
Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
Online sellers provide much more flexibility to niche buyers by offering an infinite variety of products or services.
In addition, cyber-products have a longer lifespan or in other words: the long tail.
Who Should Read "The Long Tail"? And Why?Can the modern and digital society embrace all of the changes rising with the birth of “the long tail”? Online markets are designed especially for speed, and efficiency. They offer far more goods than the ordinary ones.
Your business wouldn’t survive the “Rip Van Winkle” scenario due to unpreparedness and rigidness. It sounds like a horror movie to wake up after 20 years of sleep and find everything changed.
This book is a real wake-up call to those who still live stuck in the old days.
The Long Tail outlines the importance of living in the present time, understand the differences existing between the products and overcome the severe disadvantages of your business.
As such it’s highly recommended and perfect for those people who strive to improve their business activities with cutting-edge technology and commitment.
About Chris AndersonChris Anderson was born in London on July 9th, 1961. He is an Anglo-American entrepreneur, author, and columnist. Anderson alongside his parents moved to the U.S at the age of 5.
Chris obtained his college degree from the George Washington University and continued studying quantum mechanics, and science journalism at Berkeley.
In 1994 he joined “The Economist” and in 2004 his “The Long Tail” article became the basis for his The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More – book. A year later in 2005, he was selected as the best editor of the year.
"The Long Tail Summary"Go 30-40 years back in time and analyze the music hits back then – approximately the period between 1970 and 1980. Numerous hits existed as they do know, but only a few of them dominated the scene.
Michael Jackson and Eagles, for example, endured for quite a long time, on the top or they’ve managed to confront the changeableness of the audience’s preferences. Mega-music performed by Michael Jackson entered people’s hearts and remained to this day.
The corporate hit machinery was a perfect leverage for increasing popularity on top television shows, magazines, etc. Movies also did a great job when it comes to publicity; the goal was to avoid any misunderstandings referring to the relations between the public and performers.
Those so-called stars lived by one simple rule: Either you’re in or out, there was no middle. In spite of the various factors and influences, many “stars” remained “hot” for a very long time, or in other words favorite among the crowd of fans.
As the hits began to pile up, their dominance continued to expand, and popularity grow. If that process were carried otherwise, the effect would not have been the same. As simple as that, but that’s not the case for quite some time.
The fast tempo and advanced technology have produced the Internet era. The audience now has new needs in accordance with the environment we live in. New broad tools are available that can be used to conduct the same service as in the 80s.
The conventional tv-shows and radio programs now become secondary, or to put it differently – replaced by a wide range of other possibilities like DVDs, Websites, Video Games, iPods, mp3, etc. According to many, that marked the beginning of a new social era, which brought a set of opportunities that came at a price.
The author of “The Long Tail” Chris Anderson embraces this wake-up call and advises you to do the same. With a broad perspective supported by hard facts, stats, charts, insights, and numbers, Anderson adopts a futuristic attitude that will not deprive him of his business of the “digital cake”.
Online marketing is not a straightforward matter due to thousands of variabilities and alternatives. According to this book, the new Age knocks on everyone’s door, not waiting for an invitation.
Digitalization and technology meet on solid grounds despite the current fluctuations that shape the worldly economy. The extensive research on the subject conducted by Anderson generates much more than simple numbers.
The Long Tail
It gives a whole new meaning of online retailing, and exploration of niche markets.
This steam, allows the products to achieve immortality – referring to a longer lifespan. The longevity is only a fantasy for the shelf products, regardless of how hard these manufacturers work in order to improve their durability.
Even blockbuster commodities are a part of the same short-term process. Anderson is highly skilled to talk about the out-of-box mentality by which he clarifies the decline in box office sales worldwide and the constant increase of niche firms.
Each section conveys a unique message, backed by facts and information drawn from reliable sources.
Key Lessons from “The Long Tail”1. Move side by side with technology 2. The substitute era 3. The power of democratization and digitalization
Move side by side with technologySome businesses that are pretty conventional, because they don’t progress parallelly with the technology.
if it were otherwise, perhaps these corporations or small companies would have a bigger chance to avoid economic collapse.
The substitute eraWelcome to the New Online World, where niche buyers pay extra attention to digital products rather than those old-fashioned tangible commodities.
Megabytes are the perfect substitute for mega-buildings – giving birth to something new.
The power of democratization and digitalizationNowadays, almost anyone with access to computer and internet can become a published author, celebrity, or businessman.
Undoubtedly, the Internet has the pivotal role in eliminating all the barriers that used to exist.
These obstacles served as blockades for companies (especially new ones) to reach new heights.
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“The Long Tail” Quotes[bctt tweet="Diamonds can be found anywhere." username="get12min"]
[bctt tweet=“When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.” username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet=“In a world of infinite choice, context—not content—is king.” username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet=“A physical store cannot be reconfigured on the fly to cater to each customer based on his or her particular interests.” username=“get12min”]
[bctt tweet=“With the evolution of online retail, however, has come the revelation that being able to recategorize and rearrange products on the fly unlocks their real value.” username=“get12min”]
Our Critical ReviewThe book is written for one purpose – to enable any reader that lacks expertise in understanding products to quickly grasp the material.
There is no shortage of high-quality examples, able to drive this point even further.
| New / Extended | The Long Tail SummaryChris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, coined the term Long Tail in an article that became a reference for anyone who wanted to understand the new consumer relationships in pervasive digital media times.
Using the universe of films, books, and music, he has proven that the Internet has created a new marketplace, where total revenue from a myriad of niche products with small sales volumes equals total revenue from “hit” products.
We live in an era of great opportunities for innovation where products are launched each year. However, most of them fail and, most of the time, waste time and money spent building a product that consumers do not want or need.
While on the other hand, the consumer market has always been a hit industry where a product needed millions of units sold to be considered a success, but with the advent of the internet, the dynamics of hits has entered a long and steady decline.
The concept of long tail traces a new paradigm of the digital market.
Market's New Dynamic To Create New ProductsMost are inclined to think of blockbuster movies or best sellers when they are going to develop new products for profits.
In today’s economy, businesses can grow and become immensely profitable by offering a wide variety of goods that appeal to small groups of people.
Imagine the following example: If you are a bookstore, what sells most? A single best seller or hundreds of niche books?
The long tail model proves that it is possible to survive in the new economy without depending on big hits.
And the bookstore cited in the example above could, for instance, be Amazon.
When Jeff Bezos created the company, he realized that on the internet it was much easier to offer a colossal volume of options to his customers and that niche books were extremely lucrative.
About 30% of the total market is in niche books, ones you do not find in your local bookstore but that are there, readily available on Amazon.
n the new digital market, popularity is no longer necessary to have a profitable business. In the online market, a niche product sold is as valuable as a hit.
According to Chris Anderson, there is a demand curve established in any sector: the most consumed products (hits) generate the highest demand and the least consumed cause the lowest demand.
While the hits are the head of the curve, the niche products, with lower demand, represent the long tail, the tail of the curve.
Here comes the twist.
Anderson states in his book, and proves with clear arguments, that meeting the various specific needs of several well-defined niche markets can bring even more success to a company than trying to attract the largest possible audience with big sellers.
Scarcity vs AbundanceWith endless catalogs, consumers reveal what they want. The more things they find, the more they discover their tastes and preferences are not as mainstream as previously imagined.
If mass media and our hits-obsessed culture have influenced them, the more choices they make, the more they are surprised by their tastes.
But all this is something new, and in the past, there have always been artificial limitations that prevented infinite catalogs. In the retail market, products are most often stored directly on site, and this impedes diversity of stock.
For a CD to be in a record store, for example, the store needs to be able to sell four copies of it a year, and because it is a local business, it is stuck with its neighborhood preferences to have demand for a product.
Traditional retailers have to cut their product catalog for space constraints and also preferences for that location.
Physics laws are also a restriction. The number of available radio and TV frequencies limits the number of stations a city can have, for example.
Each of these stations also has a limited show inventory. So the focus on hits is understandable, in a world of scarcity.
People’s desire for products does not just depend on their popularity.
All individuals have particular and non-popular preferences, and the scarcity market does not meet these demands. In the world of abundance, new technologies allow the consumer to have these needs met and thus to live their most “individual” preferences.
The Long Tail Market DynamicsIn every market, there are more niche products than hits and the cost to reach these niches has dropped dramatically over time. Today, it has become possible to offer a much larger portfolio of goods.
On the other hand, potential consumers need help finding these niche products given the sheer volume of options. This help comes through the filters.
Filters can be online search tools, social networks, user reviews that have bought those products, and are essential to help consumers discover new products.
When the variety of goods expands, and the filters come into play, hits become less attractive, and the niches add up. There are so many niche products that, combined, can rival the hits.
As a result, the natural demand curve is revealed, without the scarcity determined by the context and bottlenecks of the past.
The long tail is nothing more than the real culture without the filters of economic scarcity.
The biggest enhancer of the Long Tail is the reduction of the cost to reach a niche. And for this to happen, some forces must take action:
The tools of production have been democratized.
The personal computer is, without doubt, the best example. It allows people to have access to technology that previously only professional musicians and filmmakers had access.
Consumption costs have to be reduced to democratize distribution. The internet, for example, allows people to reach out to others without having to make significant investments.
Supply and demand need to be connected. Consumers need to discover the new products available in the market for the system to work.
The New ProducersThe relationship between supply and demand is based on the amount of content that is available at any given time. The more content released on the market, the longer the tail will be.
The explosion of personal computing through computers and smartphones in the last few decades has made people capable of producing their music, writing their own books, and even making their movies.
The emergence of communities like Youtube and Myspace created a new audience in search of content targeted to their tastes and a multitude of new creators, who supplied this demand.
These communities, as well as pervasive technology, have significantly reduced the costs of content creation and this has made people produce more.
Before, to create a song you needed to rent a studio, hire a producer, musicians and buy instruments.
Today, just a few software (in some cases even free) are required for you to put your music available in MP3 on the web.
The fact that production costs have fallen so much that even often people do not have the revenue generation as the primary objective to create.
The new model allows individuals to create new things by experimentation, curiosity, influence, and fun.
This new paradigm creates voices that were not heard before. If the encyclopedia Britannica employed thousands of researchers to build its content and had hundreds of thousands of entries, in the digital world, the rules changed.
At Wikipedia, without hiring a full-time scientist or researcher, thousands of amateurs created millions of entries. Wikipedia has a collection of virtually infinite content, proving the phenomenon of the long tail.
In it, you find all the hits, but also entries in every possible niche. Also, the long tail brings a new dynamic of motives why people create content online.
If, at the top of the tail, people are financially motivated to create content, the further down the tail, the greater the volume of different motivations emerge.
People create content online (and edit Wikipedia) for reasons such as fun, expression, experimentation, reputation, and learning.
The New MarketsCompanies that navigate the long tail are aggregators, services that collect large varieties of products and make them easy to find. They democratize the consumption of goods that would not be located before.
Google, for example, allows companies to advertise niche products for the long tail. In Google, the lower the competition for advertisers for a niche, the less that advertiser pays.
Itunes does the same for digital music, and eBay allows the long tail of the physical products trade to take place in the digital world.
There are five main types of aggregators, know them and their examples:
Aggregators of physical goods: Amazon, eBay;
Digital Goods Aggregators: iTunes, Youtube;
Advertising Aggregators and Services: Google, Craigslist;
Information aggregators: Wikipedia, Google;
Content aggregators/communities: Myspace, Facebook; Many aggregators belong to more than one category.
Amazon, for example, aggregates physical products in its store, but also digital on the Kindle’s digital books platform.
The New InfluencersIf the big musical hits were done through radio and the clips on TV, today, more and more, the distribution is online.
Increasingly consumers want to receive recommendations from other customers and communities with whom they share their preferences.
The internet has amplified word of mouth communication and connected consumer sentiment, supply, and demand. It means that, in the digital environment, new influencers emerge that build their reputation in the digital world.
These influencers help them get out of the world they know (hits) to the world they still do not know (the niches).
The Long Tail EconomyAs the curve of the long tail descends, it approaches zero and continues toward infinity. From an economic point of view, long tail economics allow products at the end of the curve to still be extremely sellable and profitable because there are no space limitations to advertise or store inventory.
In the long tail market, many more products can be offered, and it is much easier to find them.
So sales are much more distributed between the hits and the niches and the profits are distributed all around the curve and not just for the hits.
The main effect of the long tail is that consumer interest is directed to the niches and by being more satisfied with the products they find, they end up consuming more than in a market of only hits.
The Choice ParadiseOne of the effects of the long tail is the explosion of possible choices for consumers. But will they be able to handle it?
Although some prefer fewer options, studies cited by Chris Anderson show that people want to be able to select, but not necessarily required to choose.
They want variety, but they also want help choosing, never feeling “forced” to choose.
While in traditional retail the consumer is alone, watching the shelves with limited information, in the online world he has infinite information and possibilities.
A Cultural PivotWe are moving from an era of mass culture to a massively parallel culture. Each belongs to many distinct groups at the same time.
That doesn’t mean that in the future we will have a culture of amateur products on a high scale, but rather that the niches will become less obscure and the hits will be less attractive.
This transformation is already taking place in the media industry, for example. Niche blogs already compete with major news portals around the world.
For consumers, the vast availability of content means that their perspectives are expanded, but also that we have to do more research to make better decisions.
From the point of view of relationships, this also implies choosing who we want to relate.
Do we prefer to be less close to people with whom we are less alike and connected by mass culture or closer to people with whom we have much more in common thanks to a particular niche/group?
The Long Tail RulesFor a business to be successful in a long tail market, it is necessary to follow these nine rules:
Move your inventory, have more products in the catalog: You can do this by bringing more merchandise to your collection or by migrating to the sale of digital goods and ending with your inventory;
Let consumers do the work: Let them do reviews, and word of mouth ensures their products become reliable and relevant;
A single method of distribution is not enough: Some people prefer to shop online, others prefer to go to the mall. The best way to reach a large volume of individuals is by having a wide distribution.
A single product is not enough: You have to separate the content into micro parts so that people can consume what suits them and combine the elements into something new.
A single price is not enough: In abundant markets, variable prices can be a great technique to maximize the value of a product.
In the case of iTunes, for example, each song costs on average $ 1, but if you buy the complete album, the price per song drops.
Share information: The availability of information is crucial to helping customers choose and find products.
Trust the market: In abundant markets, you can just enter all your products into it and let the market itself organize itself with them, measure and respond.
Think “AND” and not “OR”: In a market of diverse and abundant demand, there is no zero-sum game but infinite possible combinations where everyone wins.
Understand the power of free: One of the most interesting things about digital products is that they allow you to have cost close to zero. That allows you to be creative with demonstrations, trials or even free entry products.
Final Notes:Culture and commerce are being dominated by niche products. The hit market is no longer as dominant as it used to be.
Focusing on the long tail of demand is one strategy that the most successful internet companies have adopted to satisfy digital consumer preferences.