The Long Tail
by Chris Anderson 2007 – “The niche has become the norm.”
I stumbled across this fascinating work on a list of ‘must-read books for the futures-thinker’. Although 10 years old, it is as relevant today as it was in the new millennium. Written by the former editor of WIRED magazine, it explores 3 simple yet powerful ideas:
Since the new millennium film, television, music and book producers have accepted that the age of the blockbuster is over. The future, they claim, lies in niche products. Anderson puts it more graphically: ‘Up until now the focus has been on dozens of markets of millions (the spike on the ‘hockey stick’ economic graph), instead of millions of markets of dozens (the ‘long tail’).’ In other words, don’t sell one to millions, rather sell millions to one. Sales of bestsellers have slumped by 25% and across the board ‘niche products’ now outsell ‘hit products.’ Amazon has 11 million books on offer compared to the biggest bookstore’s 200,000 where 30% of all books sold cannot even be found.
The long tail is getting longer because every time someone turns on a laptop they are a writer, a musician, a movie producer, an artist or a presenter. In addition, advances in technology have furnished everyone with state of the art kit which is used prolifically. In the last 24 hours random individuals have published 2 million blogs, uploaded 6 million videos, sent 500 million tweets and posted 60 million photographs online!
The long tail is getting fatter because, in the past, simple availability or ‘shelf space’ which prevented customers from even finding niche products, have been replaced by 2 types of ‘Aggregators’: a. HYBRID such as Amazon and eBay have created huge physical locations storing millions of products readily available. b. DIGITAL such as Youtube, Spotify, Netflix now offer limitless choice.
The message is clear – switch on your laptop, start creating, get your work into an aggregator and surf the long tail to fame and fortune.
The ‘new normal’ is here to stay. I enjoyed it, I hope you do too.