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A Hair on the Long Tail

I haven't actually read this yet. I heard the author interviewed on my local NPR station while driving this morning and ordered this the moment I got home.

If you've never heard of the "Long Tail", it's simply a visualization of a sales or popularity curve: on the left we have a few things that are immensely popular, and then it slopes downhill somewhat rapidly. Before the Net, that was it, but now we have a long "tail" of thousands or millions of items that can be sold or are popular with some segment of the population. Without the Net, advertising and inventory costs were too high, but with the Net they are not, so items and ideas that only a small percentage of people are interested in can exist and be offered.

This website itself is a hair on the long tail, which partly explains why I have great interest in the subject. But there's more to it: the long tail also enables individualism and allows very small businesses to compete with the megacorps of the world, and in some situations the Net even lets individuals and small businesses do more than than the giants can hope to accomplish. As I'm a strong believer in individualism and dislike organizational dominance, the long tail also supports my political ideals.

Publisher's Weekly says that "Anderson's assurances that these principles are equally applicable outside the media and entertainment industries are not entirely convincing." Of course the writer of that probably has strong corporate media ties: the dinosaurs are often incapable of noticing the furry little creatures that will inherit their dominance.

Or so I think. But then I'm a microscopic flea clinging to a hair at the end of that long, long tail, so my perspective is perhaps equally myopic. Whatever your opinion is, you can probably agree that the long tail is real for at least some part of our world, and that it has importance. Therefor, you need to jump over to Amazon and order your copy now.

(The inteview was on WBUR in Boston on 7/18/2006. You can find it on-line at http://wbur.org)

  • Chris Anderson
  • Hyperion
  • 1401302378

Amazon Order (or just read more about) The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More  from Amazon.com

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