What exactly does the Long Tail mean?
- Markets that are not limited to products that have mass appeal
- Niches that may be unknown on a large scale
- Products that appeal to a small but dedicated group of devotees, which is fine when production costs are low
Times have changed since only the biggest hits in any market had a chance of selling. Mass production – so necessary to the dawning of the Industrial Age – is no longer necessary, or even desired. In the Information Age, people do not want to be fed the same products en masse and told that what they really want is unavailable. They do not want to walk into a store which limited shelf space is reserved for the most heavily ranked, big-selling items. Chances are the item they are looking for will not find a place on those shelves. So, if they are not shackled to the biggest hits, how do they get access to the music, books, gadgets, etc., that they are looking for? Luckily, with today's Long Tail markets, businesses have seen the value of selling many, many products to smaller groups of people.
The Long Tail could not exist without almost unlimited avenues of markets which the Internet makes possible. E-commerce has grown in leaps and bounds because of the accessibility of virtually anything, and today's search engines help possible buyers to find it. Once they have found their bought after item, services like PayPal make it easy and safe to pay for those products, and overnight or 2-day shipping assures the buyers will get it fast. If one online vendor does not carry the product they want, there are plenty of other vendors who may have it. Amazon.com is one of my favorite places to buy, because I've rarely been able to find what I'm looking for. They not only offer a wealth of products themselves, they offer a choice of vendors who can sell you, for example, the title you're looking for either new or used, in paperback or hardcover.
If you're into music, you do not have to be content with only the top 10 or even the top 100 hits. You're no longer dependent on radio stations playing from their "Top" lists. Peer to peer networks provide you with access to a broad array of music, and you can download them in mp3 format and make your own playlists on your PC or Mac, tailor to your own musical taste.
The digital and electronic world has helped make the Long Tail an important development in selling and in buying. Both the seller and the buyer win. Costs are lower for both, because these products – such as e-books, mp3s, and even software, have little or no production and delivery costs.
To delve deer into this topic, read Chris Anderson's fascinating book "The Long Tail".