Lee Gomes provides some data into the long tail — or rather, the lack of it.
In a critique to “The Long Tail”, Lee quotes examples such as:
– With expansion of inventory, the no-play list on Ecast has gone up from 2 to 12%. The number on Rhapsody is 22%.
– 2.7% of Amazon’s titles produce 75% revenue; 10% of Ecast songs account for 90% of the streams.
– 10% of Bloglines feeds grab 88% of subscriptions; 35% have no subscriptions at all.
There does seem to be some movement towards the tail, but apparantly the hype has overtaken reality once again.
Our own experience at venturewoods suggests that media is definitely getting more personalized and targeted. May be the more relevant question is “what are the applications for which long tail has an immediate impact”?
[also see followup on 21st Sep, 2006 here]
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This week Chris Anderson was interviewed by Jack Trout about the Lee Gomes critique of the Long Tail. Jack zeroed in on the “old school” business heads, and traditional companies who are staring at the pages of the Long tail, wondering why it’s a best seller and asking “what the heck do I do with this stuff.” As producer of the program, I was a fly on the wall. Though I’ve read the book, followed the discussions online and read a few of the research papers; I found several good “Ah HA’s” in the interview. Here’s the link:
weird- I posted a long response to this. It showed up on your site for a while and then mysteriously dissapeared. Too bad.
His book seems to focus very heavily on businesses where the item(s) for business have minimum physical inventory and distribution requirements (such as music tracks, on-demand printing of books). This to him is the ideal Long-tailed model – inventory, distribution and management costs are so low, ‘it doesn’t hurt to have them address a larger market anyway’. He also talks about hybrid models, which have a mix of physical inventory and on-demand inventory (amazon, B&N etc) which helps them to extend their ‘long tail’.
His ideas are not revolutionary in any way. He repeatedly seems to point out the same thing – there is a reasonable business in the tail end with the internet model, which warrants it not being ignored. Once in a while he makes a heavy statement like ‘this is the new wave’ but then goes on to balance it by saying ‘-in addition to the old wave’ 🙂
I think a lot of reports are taking extreme ends of his book. Even though the front cover says ‘Why the future of business is selling less of more’, the text of his book (atleast to my reading) does not state the head-sellers are doomed. Rather he is saying, that if it is ‘cheap’ to also sell the tail-end, why not ? He also sights that the tail and head often complement each other. Example:
a) A great selling beatles record (head) may suddenly start selling a spoof on beatles by an unknown artiste to certain avid collectors (tail)
b) A fabulously selling book on terrorism (head) may suddenly start selling reasonable amount of books on psychology, child trauma management etc (tails)
c) Conversely, multiple tails, by word of mouth could generate more ‘heads’ by referrals, peer reviews etc.
I think the recent announcements from Amazon for S3 and EC2 are excellent examples of long-tailing applications.By almost commoditizing infrastructure, Amazon is effectively telling
ISVs ‘Use our network to offer anything to anyone’ at scalability,
performance and speed levels that rival the best of best
infrastructures like those hosted by Google. Therefore, they,
according to me have struck at the ‘root’, which is an affordable and
powerful infrastructure, that will let anyone deploy services such as
email, VoD, conferencing and whatever else without the performance
bottlenecks of the ‘open internet’ . If Amazon started this as an
‘application’ like mail, it would be only for a niche market. Instead,
Amazon is ‘long-tailing’ the applications – and letting the software
vendors decide the killer application and their target audience.
Whatever is hosted, its their servers and network. Added bonus:
imagine the amount of content that will incrementally be made
available to Amazon for personalized services. Afterall, one of the
most important requirements of personalized services is availability
of multiple content streams for users .
He sights software services as a long-tailed model, with the example of salesforce.com. I can turn that around by arguing that salesforce.com is a short-head model. It is a specific platform heavily marketed and targetted for sales people. He however is looking at it as a platform where others can create sales derived applications on top, and hence, that part of it is ‘long-tailed’. So it depends on how you look at this example.
Hmm… so are there areas where it is already significant enough to qualify as a change in model?
eventually, we are all dead 🙂
“what are the applications for which long tail has an immediate impact”?
My reading of the book seems to indicate this question to somewhat contradictory. Long tail, as he describes, is a gradual trend. He describes it as an inevitable over the years and is not an immediate impact.