« When Long Tails Go Wrong | Main | Long Tail Caption Contest »

July 03, 2005


Greg Linden

Chris, the marginal cost of producing digital goods may be near zero, but the transaction costs associated with buying them are not zero.

In particular, the cost of information -- the cost for someone to gather enough data to choose between a vast selection of items -- is high.

Even with digital goods, we need to give people the information and tools they need to find and discover the items they want. We will never be able to stop discriminating entirely.

Henrik Torstensson

I think that transaction costs and search costs/cost of information are two important reasons why subscription services for media (i.e. music and film) will become more popular. It is often ineffective and costly (alternative cost) for a customer to think about if she should spend 99 cents on song A or song B or both. Subscriptions can lower the cost. But such a system still requires filters to help the customer 'find good stuff'.


Matching Long Tail Supply and Demand for Physical Goods
I think there is a need to distinguish between Long Tail Demand and Long Tail Supply, especially with physical goods. It's easy to imagine Long Tail Demand for many categories of physical goods, such as Nicholas Carr's example of auto-parts, or foods or eyeglasses or doorknobs. However, just because there is a Long Tail Demand for a certain product category doesn't automatically mean that there is a business opportunity to capture.

It seems that Long Tail Demand must be matched with Long Tail Supply. This would seem to require two things. First it requires that there are suppliers who can produce a dizzying, seemingly-infinite array of product varieties. This certainly seems to be happening today, as Virginia Postrel in "Substance of Style" points out that there are 1500 distinct styles of drawer pulls at The Great Indoors.

The tricky part, I think, will be in MATCHING that Long Tail Demand with the Long Tail Supply. As Chris points out, to get part way down the Long Tail you need a digital catalogue that is searchable, categorized flexibly, etc. That is already fairly commonplace with physical goods, but it isn't enough to accurately match supply with demand. With digital products, consumers can often easily sample/evaluate the product digitally and have a good idea that they are getting what they want. But currently, physical goods often need to be sampled/ evaluated physically. Recommendations and reviews are okay but, you have to actually sit in a chair to decide if it fits your body, you have to test-drive a car to decide you like the way it handles, you have to hold the paint chips up to natural light to see if they match, etc. In business-to-business situations, matching can have more demanding criteria, for example, a manufacturer must sample and prototype new materials before an order is placed, even if the manufacturer found an obscure material from a digital catalogue.

So perhaps in order to capture profits from a Long Tail Demand in physical goods, you first have to also have a Long Tail Supply. (Or you may be able to create Long Tail Demand for an existing Long Tail Supply of products.) Either way, in order to have a viable business opportunity, you may also likely need to innovate around HOW YOU MATCH that supply and demand – beyond just a robust digital catalogue. One example that comes to mind, is the use of digital body scanners to virtually try on clothes (see link) http://www.explore.cornell.edu/scene.cfm?scene=The%203D%20Body%20Scanner&stop=3D%20%2D%20Virtual%20Fit%20Demo

I'd be interested to hear what others think about this.


How about some empirical evidence for this long tail? Name some industries where the number of products or brands has increased, and from what to what?


The greatest diet pill adipex is here to help you lose weight, order adipex today and combat obesity.


It seems that Long Tail Demand must be matched with Long Tail Supply. This would seem to require two things. First it requires that there are suppliers who can produce a dizzying, seemingly-infinite array of product varieties. This certainly seems to be happening today, as Virginia Postrel in "Substance of Style" points out that there are 1500 distinct styles of drawer pulls at The Great Indoors.

debt consolidation

debt consolidation Today student loan debt consolidation is a big debt free issue in the United States. consolidating debt Most students in the US pursue debt consolidation loan further studies through external finance. bad credit debtThe government debt free too pumps in millions of dollars into the economy to finance these studies and provide a congenial environment for proper and high class study to the students. cheap debt consolidationEvery student has a different set of financial requirement. There are several mortgage refinance organizations and student loan best debt consolidation consolidation companies, which provide student debt consolidation. debt consolidation help There are several programs for credit card debt individual needs debt help of the student. The result of all the programs is similar. All the programs work debt consolidation help towards designing debt consolidation online a payment plan suiting your individual needs in which the program will merge all your student loan existing loans into a single consolidate debt sum and reduce your existing interest rate in an effort to bring the repayment debt consolidation help monthly installment to a sum debt consolidation solution which you can pay easily with your existing income.debt plan

credit card debt


Hi, the long tail theory is really very interesting. However, I am still not sure about the influences of the long tail theory to the goods producer.
As you have mentioned in your book, the cost of producing will decrease considerably, and many amateurs may do their job not for profit. However, the prelimitary is that the producers can sustain themselves. According to the theory, "in abundant market, you can simply throw everything out there and see what happens, letting the market sort it out". That's ture for the itunes or google or netflix website. However, for an individual good producer, its source is always limited. It has to decide it stradge to apply the scarce sources. Athough it would be much easier for people to locate the goods, there is still a great possibility that its income can not sustain the producer.That would be the nightmire for the producers, especially the smaller campanies. So there might be three possibilities, 1. the producer cater its product to more people, make it a hit goods 2. the producer risk its products to cater to few specialized people and fortunately make enough money to sustain and then it will expand its products to serve these specialized people.3. the producer failed to sale its nichie products and get elimilated by the markets. So in my opinion, the long tail theory would make little difference to the producers current judgement. I am just a little lost here. Could you explain it to me?

foreign pharmacy

Canadian medications offers a convenient, private, affordable alternative to conventional pharmacies and other costly online services. We enable those patients with transportation issues,limited access to quality medical care and privacy needs to have their medications safely delivered directly to their door, without the hassle and time constraint of visiting a doctor's office.


Thanks for the tips and great info. Very appreciative. Its posts and blogs like these that really do help people. Thank you. bootleg movie download


thanks for the info! i wish to read more from you

Personal Money Management

The long tail theory sound interesting, but can it be used in other areas. And have the same results?

Debt Consolidation Companies

Interesting topic. I'd like to read more about it now.

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!