The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand
Like the 'tipping point', the 'long tail' is a concept that is so obvious and so right that it seems extraordinary that no-one has articulated it before. 'The long tail' refers to the hundreds of thousands of products that are not number one bestsellers. If you were to plot a graph of a company's products ranging them from the bestselling to the least popular along the bottom axis and plotting sales figures against the vertical axis, then you'd see the line sort of 'tailing off' as products become less popular. The bestsellers may sell in their thousands, but others sell only in hundreds, or maybe even tens. However, there are so many of these products that if you add up their total sales, they are quite often more profitable than bestsellers. These products, from the part of the sales graph that 'tails off', are the long tail, and these products are changing the face of the entertainment industry. When Chris Anderson identified this trend in Wired magazine in the autumn of 2004, he explained how in an era of almost limitless choice, many consumers will gravitate toward the most popular mass-market items, but just as many will move toward items that only a few, niche-market people want. Take music in an age of Amazon.com and iTunes. A lot of music buyers want the hot new releases. But just as many buy music by lesser-known artists or older music - songs that record stores never would be able to carry but that can be offered online. All that niche-market, off-mainstream music is part of the long tail, and makes a significant contribution to profits. In this new digital era, the long tail is a powerful force that is challenging the might of the mass-market.