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February 01, 2005



I've been thinking about the Long Tail quite a bit since reading the Wired piece and now this blog.

Here's one thing I'm a bit less clear about... The Long Tail is great for an iTunes or Amazon, which can aggregate all this content under one "overhead" cost (which would already be spent on the hits).

But does the Long Tail really help producers? They're still working for a pittance or less. Maybe they still get the same joy as before, so there's no real loss. But does it help them to make more money?

Also, does the Long Tail do much to help smaller marketers, who don't have the financial power to get started, or to bring people "in the door" with the hits that allow building up a huge catalog?


I think it helps them in two ways:

1) It provides a distribution channel for stuff that couldn't get any distribution at all before (eg Netflix First and eBay)

2) It harnessess amplified word-of-mouth (from recommendations to blogs) to find customers for products that can't afford traditional marketing.

Are niche producers going to get rich as a result? Maybe not. But it definitely improves the chances for good stuff to find a market, regardless of its provenance.


It doesn't help producers in the aggregate. It helps allow more producers find an audience, and thus, will earn some money from their art that they wouldn't have. This will be at the cost of the most popular producers, but the net effect on artistic output should be more variety and higher quality.

In addition, less money will go towards marketing to create hits, and less money to middlemen means more money to the artists (which will help producers overall). But I'm not sure whether this effect will be that significant, and even if it is, it's really due more towards technology naturally lowering costs of production than the Long Tail itself.

Brian Weaver

Some definitions take longer than 10 seconds at a cocktail party. Looking for concise meaning is no easy task for what at first glance appears to be counter intuitive. I think you've gone a long way to help me understand what makes the Web/Internet so different in it's impact.

Oliver Morton

On the cocktail party front, the obvious answer is a t-shirt. Or a lapel pin. Or, I suppose, a bespoke tie. Hucksterish, sure -- but sometimes a visual cue really does work best.
PS -- time for a nice tatoo?

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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