Monday, January 02, 2006

The Long Tail Phenomenon

The what? Think of the tail of a comet....it's all business up-front and gets our attention but if you combine all the particles in the tail...it's probably four to five times the size of the front part. Think of this in market size....think about ALL the music that is out there, being produced every day, but we some how only hear a lot of the same songs on the radio or only certain songs are available at the music store.

Think of a book store....only books that someone else has chosen are in the front of the store or even in the store at all. I found out today (don't ask how) that there is a magazine just for owners of bowling alleys...what?...seems like a pretty niche market to me, not one I've ever seen at Barnes & Noble for sure.

So, the concept of the Long Tail is this, if the distribution of something was free and forever, the amount of goods you have now available to you just got BIGGER even though it would exist in no store at all. Musical Artists could produce a song or a writer could pen a story and make it available to everyone (literally) and a small segment of everybody is better than a big segment of nobody.

Ok, so a little more personal now. How much "stuff" does one have that is gathering dust? Too much for sure, but listing it, the cost and managing it is never worth the one person in the world that might want it. So, it costs you money to list it (eBay/classifieds), it always has a timelimit (so that one person that wants it might not be looking) and then it "expires" and you have to go through it all over again...ugh, no wonder it's dusty.

Ok, so the point? The long tail is infinite if there is a distribution method that is easy, free and forever. People will list their "stuff"...all of it, there is nothing to lose.

This is a great article that explains the Long Tail with great examples.
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail_pr.html

This is a VC's take on the Long Tail
http://www.ventureblog.com/articles/indiv/2005/001227.html

One more...I can't resist....eBay recently went against their history to provide free listings to their users after the holidays. This year they charged a dime (which is more their style anyway...dang feepay)

Their "reasoning" was that too many people under the "free mode" listed their items with a high starting price, which made eBay "a sea of noise" for the buyers. Is anyone seeing what I'm seeing? Sellers that want to sell something and don't want to "deal" with the listing fee and the 7-day closure.

http://www.fool.com/News/mft/2005/mft05122907.htm

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