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October 20, 2010

The Long Tail- Opportunities and Threats

In 2004 Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson, popularized the long tail theory in an article called “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.” In retail terms, the long tail describes a niche strategy of selling a large number of unique items in relatively small quantities.

The increasing popularity of online retailers presents an interesting opportunity for artists and suppliers alike. Because it doesn’t cost ecommerce sites like any more money to list a marginalized book title then it does to list a bestseller, they can afford to do so. A brick-and-mortar shop however, with rent and overheads to pay, cannot. The advantage of this to the supplier (Amazon) is that they are making another sale. The advantage to the artist (novelist) is that their book is being sold and potentially recommended by the websites various recommendation channels and features.

With regards to web content providers, the long tail theory suggests that smaller web sites, focusing solely on a niche area, might come to threaten larger search engines that cover a vast array of subjects.

Social media and marketing expert Seth Godin warns us against getting too comfortable in the theory of the long tail. In his blog post entitled “When the Long Tail is Underwater” he acknowledges that the long tail is real, and that given the choice, people will find what’s perfect for them. However, he rightly points out that there are still millions of songs on iTunes that are never bought and millions of blogs on the web that are never read. While he encourages us all to continue to think outside of the box and design our business plans slightly outside of the lines, he warns against going too far, to point where people are no longer interested.

When designing a business plan a company should always look at the competition. What similar things are currently available, how are they being marketed and how successful have they been? If it turns out there is a market for your product or idea, then by all means, launch it and input your own twists. If there isn’t a market though, it might be worth asking yourself why. There is likely to be a good reason.

Similarly, when you market a product or design a website, consider how your competitors have done it. Marketing strategies, website designs and content are the time to be unique and create a sense of company individuality and avant-garde thinking. So if you’re going to splash out, splash out there.

Adaptive Consultancy is a London based internet marketing company specializing in website design,eCommerce, and internet marketing. Learn more about Online Marketing Consultants here