Enlightenment of the long tail

Who hasn’t heard of the long tail? Actually, quite a few people if my experience is any indicator. If I try and explain it, or use a diagram in a presentation, I often find my work cut out in telling the story.

While I believe the long tail is an extremely significant concept, finding a clear and concise definition that helps me explain it is pretty tricky. The one I tend to use as the start point for some discussion is this one from the originator, Chris Anderson:

The Long Tail is about the economics of abundance—what happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.

I then sometimes add this anecdotal phrase from the Wikipedia definition page:

A former Amazon employee described the Long Tail as follows: “We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.”

All not really good enough, though. Maybe I don’t understand it well enough in order to explain the concept to others.

So I just ordered a copy of The Long Tail, the hardcover book that has just come out. Should be here in a couple of days, according to Amazon UK. Hopefully, enlightenment will be there.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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