CATCHING UP WITH THE LONG TAIL
I went on vacation for a couple of weeks (hence the diminished blog posts) just as the online debate over Anita Elberse’s article in Harvard Business Review Online appeared. In case you are interested in the concept of the Long Tail and you haven’t read this piece, I recommend that you click on the link above and check it out. After you finish it you can check out Chris Anderson’s response and Elberse’s response to him. And if you just want a taste of the discussion, you can go to Brian Newman’s short and helpful post on the article, in which he summarizes some of its conclusions. An excerpt from Newman:
Elberse points out some very fascinating things about the nature of long-tail business, and while seemingly intuitive in retrospect, it’s great to have some data to back this up. First, she proves that yes, a hit is still a hit and that hits sell a lot more than niche titles. She also shows that this trend is growing. Importantly, however, she identifies two other trends – from 2000 to 2005 sales of the most obscure titles doubled their sales, but the number of titles that didn’t sell a single copy quadrupled. In short, more content is entering the marketplace (thanks, digital, thanks a lot) but not all of it is going to get purchased just because it is available. So, your small title won’t necessarily gain a huge audience just because it’s on every platform available, but you can expect a better marketplace than not to long ago. Those things with some value, however, are seeing an increase in sales due to digital availability. This is especially true on the thinner part of the tail. As Elberse says, “When I differentiate between artists on smaller, independent labels and those on major labels, I find that the former gain some market share at the tail end of the curve.” Clearly, more research is needed on the long end of the tail, but there is a marked increase in activity that you don’t see at the middle end – this is potentially good news for the smaller indies.