Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Review

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
By: Chris Anderson

In The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, Chris Anderson writes about the recent farewell to the hit culture.  Compared to the 1970’s and 1980’s, today it is very rare to walk into the workplace and expect that everyone watched the same show on TV the night before.  Ratings of popular TV shows have been declining in recent years due to the fact there are now hundreds of channels for the viewer to surf through and enjoy, and not because there are less people watching tv.  This very phenomenon gives rise to the long tail.

The concept of the “long tail” is a representation of how things are sold in the world today.  Before the internet came into household use buyers were limited to the merchandise sold in stores.  Stores can only carry so much inventory and the inventory it carried was that which was in the highest demand.  Now with the advancement of technology, improved inventory systems, and virtual inventory consumers can access a wide and more specific variety of merchandise, merchandise that might not be carried by your neighborhood Walmart.

Throughout the book Anderson gives examples of companies that demonstrate the “long tail.”  For instance Apple’s iTunes utilizes virtual inventory.  Consumers can access the music they want directly online and are no longer limited to the selection of music sold in stores.  They also no longer have to purchase an entire CD by an artist.  They can purchase only the specific songs they like from the CD.  The variety of music  is nearly limitless when the company is not restrained by what can be sold in stores.  Anderson also gives a similar example with the company LEGO.  They only sell a few models within stores, but have a much greater selection of building models online.  In fact, they even allow customers to design objects they want to build online and will send them the LEGO pieces they need and a picture of what the finished product should look like to their doorstep.  This specific catering to a “niche market” is what lengthens the tail.   

Another influence on the “long tail” phenomenon is the use of filters.  Before common household access to the internet, artists, manufacturers and writers relied on what Anderson calls “per-filters” such as: editors, record labels, advertisers and marketers to bring their product to the consumers.  With the explosion of the internet came “post-filters” such as: blogs, playlists, recommendations  and reviews.  Now these post-filters provide an outlet for artists that would have been over-looked by the pre-filters.

Anderson gives an example of the use of post-filters with the band My Chemical Romance.  Who gained their fame through samples of their music on social network sites such as MySpace rather than relying on a record label to get their music noticed.  Their music later began to top charts and “it all started online, where the band’s core audience had cemented its credibility.”   

 In conclusion, Anderson breaks the book into specific concepts and lists companies and people that demonstrate the Long Tail, making the book an easy read.  It’s also captivating to the reader as Anderson uses companies that are familiar to the majority of people.  Companies like Netflix, Google, Kitchen Aid, Amazon, Rhapsody , Walmart, etc.  In an age where we are constantly reading about the collapse of the Box Office, it is important to realize that the “Long Tail” is in effect.  It’s not that people are no longer watching movies, but the amount of choices, the outlet and the way in which we watch movies has completely changed.  Pick up the long tail to learn about the new age of demand and how it effects the world around us.

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