Wired editor Anderson declares the death of "common culture"—and insists that it's for the best. Why don't we all watch the same TV shows, like we used to? Because not long ago, "we had fewer alternatives to compete for our screen attention," he writes. Smash hits have existed largely because of scarcity: with a finite number of bookstore shelves and theaters and Wal-Mart CD racks, "it's only sensible to fill them with the titles that will sell best." Today, Web sites and online retailers offer seemingly infinite inventory, and the result is the "shattering of the mainstream into a zillion different cultural shards." These "countless niches" are market opportunities for those who cast a wide net and de-emphasize the search for blockbusters. It's a provocative analysis and almost certainly on target—though Anderson's assurances that these principles are equally applicable outside the media and entertainment industries are not entirely convincing. The book overuses its examples from Google, Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and eBay, and it doesn't help that most of the charts of "Long Tail" curves look the same. But Anderson manages to explain a murky trend in clear language, giving entrepreneurs and the rest of us plenty to think about. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson offers a visionary look at the future of business and common culture. The long-tail phenomenon, he argues, will "re-shape our understanding of what people actually want to watch" (or read, etc.). While Anderson presents a fascinating idea backed by thoughtful (if repetitive) analysis, many critics questioned just how greatly the niche market will rework our common popular culture. Anderson convinced most reviewers in his discussion of Internet media sales, but his KitchenAid and Lego examples fell flat. A few pointed out that online markets constitute just 10 percent of U.S. retail, and brick-and-mortar stores will never disappear. Anderson's thesis came under a separate attack by Lee Gomes in his Wall Street Journal column. Anderson had defined the "98 Percent Rule" in his book to mean that no matter how much inventory is made available online, 98 percent of the items will sell at least once. Yet Gomes cited statistics that could indicate that, as the Web and Web services become more mainstream, the 98 Percent Rule may no longer apply: "Ecast [a music-streaming company] told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays." If Anderson overreaches in his thesis, he has nonetheless written: "one of those business books that, ironically, deserves more than a niche readership" (Houston Chronicle). Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Citing statistical curves called "long-tailed distributions" because the tails are very long relative to the heads, Anderson, editor of Wired magazine, focuses on the tail, or the development in the new digital world of an infinite number of niche markets of any size that are economically viable due to falling distribution costs and in the aggregate represent significant sales. Although the author considers primarily media and entertainment companies, he also shows the long-tail effect at eBay, KitchenAid, Legos, Salesforce.com, and Google. His nine rules for successful long-tail strategies include lowering costs and thinking niche (one product, distribution method, or price does not fit all) and giving up control by sharing information and offering choices. In this excellent book, Anderson tells that "the story of the long tail is really about the economics of abundance--what happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone." Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Andersons insights with the Long Tail continue to influence Googles strategic thinking in a profound way." -- Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google
"I cant begin to tell you how thrilled I was by The Long Tail." -- Howard Look, VP, TiVo
"If you havent already read The Long Tail, youd better -- its the new Tipping Point." -- Andy Lark, VP, Sun Microsystems
About the Author
Chris Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, a position he's held since 2001. In 2002 and 2004, he led the magazine to a 2002 National Magazine Awards nomination for General Excellence. He has worked at The Economist, where he served as U.S. Business Editor. His career began at the two premier science journals, Science and Nature, where he served in several editorial capacities. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from George Washington University and studied Quantum Mechanics and Science Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.
What happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture go away and everything becomes available to everyone?"The Long Tail" is a powerful new force in our economy: the rise of the niche. As the cost of reaching consumers drops dramatically, our markets are shifting from a one-size-fits-all model of mass appeal to one of unlimited variety for unique tastes. From supermarket shelves to advertising agencies, the ability to offer vast choice is changing everything, and causing us to rethink where our markets lie and how to get to them. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it, from DVDs at Netflix to songs on iTunes to advertising on Google.
However, this is not just a virtue of online marketplaces; it is an example of an entirely new economic model for business, one that is just beginning to show its power. After a century of obsessing over the few products at the head of the demand curve, the new economics of distribution allow us to turn our focus to the many more products in the tail, which collectively can create a new market as big as the one we already know.
The Long Tail is really about the economics of abundance. New efficiencies in distribution, manufacturing, and marketing are essentially resetting the definition of what's commercially viable across the board. If the 20th century was about hits, the 21st will be equally about niches.
The New York Times bestseller that introduced the business world to a future that's already here--now in paperback with a new chapter about Long Tail Marketing and a new epilogue. Winner of the Gerald Loeb Award for Best Business Book of the Year In the most important business book since The Tipping Point, Chris Anderson shows how the future of commerce and culture isn't in hits, the high-volume head of a traditional demand curve, but in what used to be regarded as misses--the endlessly long tail of that same curve. "It belongs on the shelf between The Tipping Point and Freakonomics."
--Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix "Anderson's insights . . . continue to influence Google's strategic thinking in a profound way." --Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google "Anyone who cares about media . . . must read this book." --Rob Glaser, CEO, RealNetworks
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