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The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More Paperback – July 8, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Wired editor Anderson declares the death of "common culture"—and insists that it's for the best. Why don't we all watch the same TV shows, like we used to? Because not long ago, "we had fewer alternatives to compete for our screen attention," he writes. Smash hits have existed largely because of scarcity: with a finite number of bookstore shelves and theaters and Wal-Mart CD racks, "it's only sensible to fill them with the titles that will sell best." Today, Web sites and online retailers offer seemingly infinite inventory, and the result is the "shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards." These "countless niches" are market opportunities for those who cast a wide net and de-emphasize the search for blockbusters. It's a provocative analysis and almost certainly on target—though Anderson's assurances that these principles are equally applicable outside the media and entertainment industries are not entirely convincing. The book overuses its examples from Google, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and eBay, and it doesn't help that most of the charts of "Long Tail" curves look the same. But Anderson manages to explain a murky trend in clear language, giving entrepreneurs and the rest of us plenty to think about. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson offers a visionary look at the future of business and common culture. The long-tail phenomenon, he argues, will "re-shape our understanding of what people actually want to watch" (or read, etc.). While Anderson presents a fascinating idea backed by thoughtful (if repetitive) analysis, many critics questioned just how greatly the niche market will rework our common popular culture. Anderson convinced most reviewers in his discussion of Internet media sales, but his KitchenAid and Lego examples fell flat. A few pointed out that online markets constitute just 10 percent of U.S. retail, and brick-and-mortar stores will never disappear. Anderson's thesis came under a separate attack by Lee Gomes in his Wall Street Journal column. Anderson had defined the "98 Percent Rule" in his book to mean that no matter how much inventory is made available online, 98 percent of the items will sell at least once. Yet Gomes cited statistics that could indicate that, as the Web and Web services become more mainstream, the 98 Percent Rule may no longer apply: "Ecast [a music-streaming company] told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays." If Anderson overreaches in his thesis, he has nonetheless written "one of those business books that, ironically, deserves more than a niche readership" (Houston Chronicle).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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The basic premise is that internet marketing makes it possible to promote a wider diversity of content than a brick and mortar enterprise can afford to do. The classic example is Amazon.com, and Amazon quite consciously knows that they are different than retailers that came before them. Remarkably a big Barnes and Nobles location can stock more than 100,000 titles, but Amazon keeps millions of titles on hand, and all of those less popular titles make Amazon a lot of money.
What is surprising is that even though many new readers, like myself, know the premise before page one, there is still a lot left to read about. Anderson makes a very careful job of it. His arguments were honed via live and web discussions over a long period of time. The second surprise is there is something of a cultural shift going on. Even in industries that would not seem to benefit from the same phenomena, The Long Tail appears. Blockbusters of every stripe still exist, but niche products are more and more of every company's revenue. This is why it is still an important book, and why this book is not just for internet retailers.
I was on a project recently that involved products that were found, sold, and delivered electronically. Clearly, The Long Tail is especially salient in such a market. Even Amazon still has to physically deliver their products. I found it so critical to my thought process that I bought copies for key members of my client team, and gave my copy to a coworker. One of the points that Anderson brings home is that the factor preventing the niche choices from being overwhelming is effective filtering. Search engines, and their equivalents, are what make The Long Tail work. I read, and read again, the sections on this since one of the things that I do as a Data Miner is build recommendation models.
If you are a Data Miner, and haven't heard Anderson's entire argument, you really need this book. If you are an analyst of any kind, I highly recommend. If you are a manager in an effected industry, and Anderson argues that it might well be present in all industries, then it should be on your reading list. Finally, if you are a consumer, perhaps with a technical bent, you will probably find it an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
I was always wondering the question that what made Amazon and Ebay become the multinational corporations when I was an undergraduate student in China. After reading The Long Tail, I found the answer to my question. Firstly, I want to give a brief introduction to the theory "long tail" by citing a paragraph on author's blog: "The theory of the long tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of "hits" (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare." By understanding the meaning behind this paragraph, which is not difficult, we could get a clear first impression on this topic. In his book, author thinks there are three forces of the long tail: democratization of the tools of production; minimization of the costs of distribution; the connection of consumers to one another. Knowing the forces is not enough, at the end of this book, author gives us two keys for using "long tail" theory well: 1 Make everything available. 2 Help me find it. However, author doesn't detail them, which make audiences have to think about it by themselves.
Case study: digital music in China
In China, we cannot use the "long tail" theory in order to make digital music industry successful. Why? Probably you will ask me this question. First, let's focus on the differences between Internet users in USA and in China. In USA, almost every person can use Internet and many people like using it to purchase digital music. However, the situation in China is totally different: most Internet users' age range from 15 to 35 in China. This means many songs that attract mid-aged or children will be neglected and seldom downloaded. What is more, more than 80% of Chinese citizens live in the country area. Currently, China is still a developing nation and people who live in many country areas cannot get access to Internet. How can people purchase digital music if they cannot have access to Internet? We know this is impossible. E-business is becoming more and more popular in these years in China. Yet, E-business corporations in China don't have that large user base as corporations in USA (like iTunes, Amazon). Due to this disadvantage, digital music companies in China are not able to cause that "long tail" so they cannot make use of it either. Finally, piracy is common in China: people can get free pirate music easily. People won't pay money to buy songs via iTunes.
I am pretty sure we will use "long tail" theory to make digital music industry successful in China one day. However, right now, we have to use the "80/20" theory to make digital music industry gain money.