The Long Tail Series Part One(August/September 2006)
1) Introduction to The Long Tail for newbies
The Long Tail is basically the idea that beyond the bestseller lists and the top X hundred number of products in a given market there are many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of alternative products that might actually be of more value to different consumers. These products are not necessarily good but amongst them there may be exceptional and wonderful products. In the book Chris Anderson of Wired discusses how this Long Tail is emerging, what forces are driving it and how companies are exploiting it and how it will benefit consumers. It started as an article and he maintains a good blog too.
And you are saying, how obvious is that? Well you are right BUT Anderson brings together some interesting insights into how the Long Tail works, the forces driving it and the reason why it is important in the current times.
2) Important notes for writers
The most interesting aspect of the Long Tail concept for authors is that it relies on tools and techniques for sorting information and building context to work and to drive user/consumers down the tail towards information that is valuable to them. He calls these tools Filters. If you are having trouble getting to grips with what tools are thing of iTunes where you can search by Genres, by Artist or by ranking and even within the genres by ranking and by sub genre.
This is exceptionally important for artists, authors and publishers because in essence these Filters are the new gatekeepers. Anderson underplays the barrier role the filters are now playing. You only benefit from Long Tail Effects if you are within their system i.e. if they can find you, process you, assign you metadata, decide who might like you, see you in other users play lists/reading lists and generally collect information on you.
Anderson keeps saying that it is important to have good tools and systems for accessing information but the sad truth is that if you don’t get within the system then you will not even register with the filters. So for say, a subscription based music model, the company controlling the subscribers can decide if your song merits attention or not. Amazon for instance is open enough to allow you join their associate system and start from there. Who knows perhaps enough reader have bought and reviewed your book to catapult you into good company on their recommendation lists and thus some extra sales.
My point here is this Long Tail Effect will not happen by accident. You need to make them happen. In the same way that publicity and PR don’t just fall from the sky you need to build contacts, encourage newspapers and radio stations. In the Long Tail World you need to build relationships, encourage friends readers and fans to write reviews and include your work on top ten lists and within their notes, general to evangelise your material or it will not even register with the filters, never be suggested to a new fan and remain in the long tail of the long tail!
More to Follow.