August 29, 2006
Staff Picks: Review of The Long Tail by Steve Sherlock
- the tail of available variety is far longer than we realized
- it's now within reach economically
- all those niches, when aggregated, can make up a significant market (1)
Amplified word of mouth is the mnifestation of the third force of the Long Tail: tapping consumer sentiment to connect supply to demand. The first force, democratizing production, populates the Tail. The second force, democratizing the distribution, makes it all available. But those two are not enough. It is not until the third force, which helps people find what they want in this new superabundance of variety, kicks in that the potential of the Long Tail marketplace is truly unleashed. (2)The Long Tail idea that Chris has created provides an outlook for the marketplace going forward. This is the blueprint by which one can succeed. Note that Mass media will not disappear overnight. The Long Tail will work by creating niches around the mass market. Other brick and mortar businesses will continue to succeed but it will depend upon the nature of the product and consumer relationship. For those products in the information or knowledge space, the Long Tail principles should be followed.My humble review will not be the end to the conversation. The discussion around the Long Tail will continue. Chris holds an active conversation around points made in the book and in other reviews of the book on his Long Tail blog. If you have not visited the blog or would like to curl up with a good business book, then this is one I would heartily recommend. You won't go to sleep reading it.Additional quotes to take away:When you can dramatically lower the cost of connecting the supply and demand, it changes not just the numbers, but the entire nature of the market. This is not just a quantitative change, but a qualitative one too. Bringing niches within reach reveals latent demand for non-commercial content. Then as demand shifts toward the niches, the economics of providing them improve further, and so on, creating a positive feedback loop that will transform entire industries -- and the culture -- for decades to come. (3)Instead of the office watercooler, which crosses cultural boundaries as only the random assortment of personalities found in the workplace can, we're increasingly forming our own tribes, groups bound together more by affinity and shared interests than by default broadcast schedules. These days our watercoolers are increasingly virtual -- there are many different ones, and the people who cather aound them are self selected. We are turning from a mass market back into a niche nation, defined now not by our geography but by our interests. (4)One of the big differences between the head and the tail of the producers is that the further down you are in the tail, the more likely you are to have to keep your day job. And that's okay. The distinction between "professional" producers and "amateurs" is blurring and may, in fact, ultimately become irrelevent. We make not just what we're paid to make, but also what we want to make. And both can have value. (5)
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.