Enlightenment of the Long Tail

    July 19, 2006

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.

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Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.