Selling things is nothing short of a science. It’s not only being at the right place at the right time with the right thing priced just right. It’s also how many of right things you have on offer and how well you find your way around all that inventory of yours. That’s where algorithms, Web and throng of people step in. And the result is? Well, Chris Anderson calls it the long tail.
Wired’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson first published an article back in October 2004 where he writes about practically infinite niche markets that drive a very big chunk of today’s on-line retail business. Then last year after gathering a long tail of comments and contributors from all winds on his Web site, Anderson published a book with an expanded title: The Long Tail: How Endless Choice Is Creating Unlimited Demand.
I picked up Anderson’s book a few weeks ago. The verdict? Read at least something about this phenomenon as it will help you understand what you might have not known even existed. If you have a reason for being too busy to read the book, then read the article. But if you’re getting into on-line business, then you should devour the Web site.
Here’s a few tidbits from the book.
Did you know that entertainment industry blatantly and unashamedly uses information about the content exchanged on peer-to-peer networks to develop marketing and release strategies for their products? Yes, those very same companies that sue their customers, at the same time benefit and even profit from the actions they sue those very same customers for. Strange, but not too surprising.
The name of the game is BigChampagne, a company that for monetary exchange tracks and analyzes information about media consumption of all kinds, with emphasis on following what’s hot and what’s not on P2P. The content producers thus know what people want and how bad they want it.
Did you know that you might order a book (book as in book the object) from Amazon that will materialize only after you have placed your order? Amazon doesn’t store just eBooks in digital form, but also many other titles that they plan to sell as atoms.
Their print-on-demand industrial printer machinery was first placed into their warehouses to top off small print runs inventory. In 2005 Amazon went a step further and acquired a leading print-on-demand company BookSurge to make their inventory more efficient and flexible. Although I’m still waiting for the day when I can get any book I have ever wanted, on eInk, instantly. Print-on-demand is cool, but dead trees and waiting for postman are so late-19th century.
Try to wrap your mind around this one:
TV produces more content than any other media and entertainment industry. There are an estimated 31 million hours of original television content produced each year. … In addition, 115 million digital videotapes are sold each year for personal camcorders.
31 million hours! That’s more than three and a half millennia, in a single year. Most of it is garbage, but it’s still 3.500 years. What about 115 million tapes (each probably an hour long on average) that amounts to more than 13.000 years? Who wants to watch all those home videos? Someone better discover how to consume video in a compressed format.
And if you think you or your obscure interests are unique, think again. The existance of parallel mass cultures might surprise you, but you and your freakiness are no longer alone:
The same Long Tail forces and technologies that are leading to an explosion of variety and abundant choice in the content we consume are also tending to lead us into tribal eddies. When mass culture breaks apart, it doesn’t re-form into a different mass. Instead, it turns into millions of microcultures, which coexist and interact in a baffling array of ways.
Or, as sociologist Raymond Williams wrote in Culture and Society: “There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.” And he said decades ago.