Daily Archives: February 8, 2008

Applying The Long Tail To Online Fiction

Long TailThe Long Tail is a concept, first expressed in 2005, that talks about how the Internet is changing the way people consume content. It applies to books, music, movies and DVD rentals – pretty much every form of entertainment product there is out there, and more. I first read about the Long Tail in 2006, shortly after the book was released, and I marked it off as something ‘vaguely interesting’. ‘Vaguely interesting’ pretty much meant ‘this does not apply to what I do’. I thought I understood what it was. I was wrong.

I revisited the Long Tail idea today. And I realized much of what is talked about in Alexandra Erin’s guest post is Long Tail in action. This post explores the Long Tail idea and how it applies to Online Fiction today.

What Is The Long Tail?

Now this is a tricky one. The article that started all this (it expanded into the book and the blog) doesn’t actually give an outright definition. Chris Anderson’s opening paragraph is an illustration of the Long Tail in action, and it is only in paragraph 27 that he finally stops his stream of examples and goes ‘this is the Long Tail.’
Long Tail Graph
So what is Long Tail? In short, the Long Tail is a concept that states:

In a market with near infinite supply (huge variety of products), a demand will exist for even the most obscure products.

Chris Anderson backs up this theory in the first part of his article with numerous examples. The one I like the best is Robbie Van-Adib’s question: ‘what percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online store (iTunes/Amazon) will rent or sell at least once a month?’ The answer? Not 80/20 like many people suppose – it is 99%. He then concludes that if an inventory is unhindered by space, profit margins (it is very cheap/free to make) and time (there is only 24 hours in a day – which means radio stations are limited in their product offering), user demand will continue to exist for very obscure products. These products then earn the company money, and totaled up may even surpass the sales of the hits.

Okay, yeah, fine. The Long Tail rocks for online merchandisers. What about blooks and online fiction?