July 13, 2006

Staff Picks: David Thomson's Review of The Long Tail

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 2:02 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Long Tail
By Chris Anderson
When The Long Tail book was announced, I was curious as to how author Chris Anderson would expand on the concepts presented in his original article from Wired magazine. I'm pleased to report that the book doesn't disappoint. The Long Tail is based on a feature of statistical distribution in which the "head" contains a small number of high-frequency items followed by a large number of lower-frequency items. The low-frequency items can account for a far greater aggregate of items than the "head". Anderson's argument is that in a sufficiently large marketplace, products which are in low demand can account for as many sales as the relatively few big-selling items. Amazon, iTunes Music Store and Netflix are the most famous examples of such a marketplace. The book details how technology has provided the ability to provide consumers with access to these hitherto hidden products, and how organizations can best take advantage of the Long Tail phenomenon. As well as providing a strong, well-articulated narrative around the topic, I was pleased to see that the ideas are also well illustrated. Along with the fascinating analyses of a variety of Long Tail markets, the book provides great insight into the key components which make such markets work. As a result, the book definitely succeeds in its goal of demonstrating how important the Long Tail is to the future of business. This book will undoubtedly be heralded as the most important business book of the year. My view is that this is entirely justified, and you should absolutely make The Long Tail the next book you read. ----------- Reviewed by David Thomson