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The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 11, 2006
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The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson. Hyperion Books,2006
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However, you may wonder how a thing once defined as “geeky,” aka “going nowhere,” evolved in Darwinian fashion into an anthropomorphic feature so essential to mankind, it is now held on a par with walking “upright” or walking “on the moon.”
In this latest version of The Long Tail, Chris Anderson does an exceptional job explaining how the “endless shelf space” of the internet, when applied to commerce or culture, makes the niche marketing of almost any product, service or idea so efficient and effective its disruptive forces lay waste to many given economic ideas and generations of long held cultural norms.
Within a few chapters you understand why a “cloud” presence is often more valuable than a physical domain and in entertaining fashion why the conversation extends beyond economics in the very mosaic of life. In some ways The Long Tail has become a meme for the cultural “theory of everything” human.
While the book is brilliant on many levels, some themes are repeated beyond their capacity to provide new enlightenment or insight. This minor distraction is really a function of attempting to write history while still standing in the middle of an event, with every passing day there are new examples of how Long Tail economics and culture are reshaping the world.
The concept of the Long Tail is simple and powerful. Anderson first proposed the idea in 2004 and then elaborated it into this book.
The book is a little padded as the author rings a lot of changes on the idea, some of them shallow and repetitive (but some not). However, he also presents a lot of interesting data across markets. This is valuable -- the value of this idea is not just how much fun it is to talk about (and it is a lot of fun), but how well it actually explains real-world phenomena. So I appreciate data such as a table of book sales clustered by number of copies sold. I was expecting 50% padding, and I was pleased that the book was only 30% padding. That compares well with most books. :)
I would like to see more material on the temporal long tail. Anderson writes about music categories such as "jazz", "classical", "pop" (and a lot of sub-categories and micro-categories), but he doesn't split the music by the year published such as "1970s", "1980s", "1990s". A lot of musical trends are correlated with year of publication, and a lot of music listeners like the music they listened to during young adulthood. That's got to have some effect on popularity of old music.
Overall, though -- this idea explains a lot of markets, and non-market sharing, too. You need to grok this idea and this book is a very good source.
In a world obsessed with the next big hit or the single shining light this book demonstrates that much success lies in satisfying the diversity of choice. Too often popular culture seduces into a popularity contest where there is only room for first place. Too often we fail to celebrate the diversity of interests that is humanity and fail to take business advantage of this.
The ability to reach smaller audiences has now been simplified with technology and the Internet. Now it is possible to services just about every market as quickly and easily as any traditional business model. This book opened my eyes up to the possibilities that I have been largely ignoring and has infused a desire to explore such opportunities with more rigour and discipline.
If you are looking to understand the business opportunity technology like the Internet can provide a business. If you are looking to understand how to succeed even within a restricted audience, then this book is something you should read. In reality, if you are in business then this is certainly a book that you should read as it may just change your idea of where you can be successful. I know it has for me.