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The Long Tail


A good place to start the discussion about the Long Tail is to take a look at the definition provided by Chris Anderson:

“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.”[1]

The diagram shown in the Figure 1 usually accompanies this definition. In this graph, the Long Tail is essentially the long, relatively flattened tail end of a demand curve.

Figure 1: The Long Tail[2]

Some key ideas that surface when studying the Long Tail concept include:

  • Tools to produce creative output have been greatly reduced in cost.
  • Along with cheaper tools to use, there is more talent, more widely distributed than previously thought.
  • Componentization is supporting a remix culture.
  • The gap between professional and amateur production is becoming increasingly narrow.
  • With an increasing number of niche products produced, supporting and simplifying consumption becomes very important.

[2] Chris Anderson, http://www.longtail.com/about.html

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