The Long Tail Book Review

A review by Julie Anna Schultz

The Long Tail; Why the Future of Business is Selling Less for More by Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson is the editor in chief for Wired magazine. Here is the original article in Wired magazine which later became the basis of his book.
This book has been sitting on my shelf for some time now. Well, like perhaps two years! Raved about on one of my discussion lists I decided to give it another looksie before selling it.


When I read the book prior I quickly lost interest as the statistical graphs began to appear on page after page. The last few months, however, I have been all about graphs especially when it comes to understanding economics and the nature of the marketplace. This book goes into depth explaining the buying habits of people online and the marketing behind all of that. I recently learned the new edition of The Long Tail is available titled The Longer Tail. I am quite interested in reading a copy of that since the book I am reading is six years old; that’s an eternity on the internet. I suspect the news gets even better for internet retailers.
As I got further in the book (beyond the previous owner’s highlighting) it became very encouraging to see how shifts have changed in our nation’s (and the world’s) buying habits as a whole. No longer are we driven by mass media and hugely sponsored companies dictating to us what our tastes are, how we should feel about a product, and most importantly how we should thin as consumers.

You may be wondering what this has to do with you. Everything as an internet marketer. Whether you sell cars on eBay, rings on Etsy, books on Amazon or baby clothes on your won website you should understand the power in what the people say and the availability of choice never previously offered in our world  . Our market is not only global but our product choices are nearly limitless.
This is where The Long Tail comes in. For you quants you know the front end of the graph is considered to be the head where the majority of buys are — the farther to the right is the tail where the graph drops off. Before the market was in the billions of buyers, that line hitting nearly 100,000 was a huge waste of time for the business owner who spends tons of money on overhead. But for us it can be a perfect number especially if we identify

Several of these micro-markets or better known as niche markets.

From Wikipedia: Chris Anderson’s and Clay Shirky’s articles highlight special cases in which we are able to modify the underlying relationships and evaluate the impact on the frequency of events. In those cases the infrequent, low-amplitude (or low-revenue) events — the long tail, represented here by the portion of the curve to the right of the 20th percentile — can become the largest area under the line. This suggests that a variation of one mechanism (internet access) or relationship (the cost of storage) can significantly shift the frequency of occurrence of certain events in the distribution. The shift has a crucial effect in probability and in the customer demographics of businesses like mass media and online sellers.

Niche it down online sellers!

A recent study by Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smithfinds that the Long Tail has grown longer over time, with niche books accounting for a larger share of total sales. Their analyses suggest that by 2008, niche books account for 36.7% of Amazon’s sales and the consumer surplus generated by niche books has increased at least fivefold from 2000 to 2008. In addition, their new methodology finds that, while the widely-used power laws are a good first approximation for the rank-sales relationship, the slope may not be constant for all book ranks, becoming progressively steeper for more obscure books.

Remember the above is quoted from the original The Long Tail book so the statistics are a bit dated. From what I have read they are spot on, perhaps even a bit under shot. Buy the new version and we’ll compare notes in the future. The above graphic will link you to the used copies at Amazon. Of course, you can do a search directly at the site. We’ll discuss niches in a later article. Just be thinking about niches and perhaps do some searches online of subjects you think you may have an interest in selling. Look and see how many different titles are up concerning the subject. If the books are good sellers and plentiful  chances are the material they are written about is a good seller.

If you want more information about niches and how to find them, an excellent ebook (well it’s more like a course) on niches and discovering what sells is Steve Lindhorst’s book .
Steve Lindhorst is thorough in his information and quite helpful. This is not my affiliate link.

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