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The Long Tail

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The Long Tail

Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Online sellers can offer infinite variety to niche buyers, giving cyber-products a longer, more powerful life: the long tail.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Does the modern world of online markets make you feel like Rip Van Winkle, who awoke from a 20-year nap to find a changed society? Author Chris Anderson has your wake-up call. With hard facts, charts and numbers, plus futuristic insights, Anderson decodes the mysteries of online marketing, Internet-based commerce and other New Age economic realities. His calculations, public feedback and extensive research offer more than just statistics for the sake of proving his point: Online retailing has a long reach into niche markets. This gives its products longevity that stores with finite shelf space can’t match, no matter how much steam they get from short-lived, blockbuster products. Anderson credibly explains the decline in box office sales and the rise of niche companies such as Netflix and iTunes. Despite a few redundancies (he believes in thorough explanations), keep on reading. You won’t mind; the text is a pleasure, written with wit, style and expertise. getAbstract recommends it to Luddites, old school business operators, anyone in entertainment or retail, and New Age Internet-based marketers (although you probably already know just how long this tail can be).


Then and Now

Consider this time capsule from the 1970s and 1980s. Mega-music hits from Michael Jackson and the Eagles dominated the music scene. Corporate hit machines cranked out a short list of top television shows, movies and performers. The message: Either you're hot or you're not. And in the hit-dominated world of the ’70s and ’80s, the mega-hits were the gods of profits.

Not any more. Fast-forward to the Internet era. A broad band of cable, DVD, Web facilities, video games, iPods, personalized soundtracks and blogs has replaced the older, narrow band of network radio and television shows. Welcome to the New Order, where niche products have overrun the former gatekeepers of taste and megabytes are replacing mega-buildings.

Heads and Tails

The "Long Tail" – the extensive, online, sustained reach of smaller, low-volume specialized products – is now wagging the big dog of blockbuster hits in news, music, literature and film. It is invading and changing many retail markets. Internet-driven retailing technology has fundamentally altered the balance of marketing power. Mega-sized big box retailers are being threatened by the long, cyberspace tail of mini...

About the Author

Chris Anderson is the editor of Wired magazine, which he has led to five National Magazine Award nominations. In 2005, he was named Advertising Age’s editor of the year. He previously worked at The Economist, Nature and Science magazines.

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