“The Long Tail” is one of those phrases I’ve been hearing about for a long time, but never known exactly what it means. Of course, I’ve been able to pretty much figure out the meaning from the contexts I’ve found the phrase in, but never actually looked for a decent description.
Today I found this article on Wired.com by Chris Anderson, which may have started off the whole thing. Wow, what a great read, I highly recommend it. You may also like Chris’s long tail blog, which has made it instantly into my my Bloglines list.
The long tail, it appears is the mass of consumers who want access to things (music, films, books etc) that don’t make it onto the shelves of the major high street retailers. We all know that Madonnas latest album will sell loads of copies, and it will be forced down our throat at every opportunity. But how about Palaxy Tracks’s albums? Sure, there may only be 1000 people in the world who would buy a copy, but given low enough overheads, that’s 1000 sales you wouldn’t have otherwise got. The internet can make those overhead costs drop like a stone – giving you access to a worldwide audience instantly, and costing a fraction of the amount of a traditional bricks-and-mortar establishment.
While the opportunities for web developers/entrepeneurs are pretty obvious (my Ideas Book is bulging, in case anyone wants to pay me for some of them), it’s the fact that this is all happening so fast that’s really exciting: the mainstream is melting down.