Review of The Long Tail, discussing applicability to marketing and market disruption.
Quickly summarized, the 'Long Tail' refers to the shape of a curve which has a concentration of high values for a small number of occurrences, and tails off to much lower values (approaches zero) for the vast majority of occurrences. The long tail is the part of the graph that is continuously approaching zero.
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The big questions for me concern the niches rather than their aggregation. Internet retailers can generate hit-sized sales volumes from the aggregation of very large number of products selling in relatively small quantities -- their economics aren't so different from the old model, except that more products are in the channel.
But that same model doesn't necessarily apply to the producers of small volume niche products. What incentives do they have to fill the niche channels and how do they market effectively to make money at this game? Does thinking about things this way imply anything different for the marketer of a bona fide hit, mass market product or those products that are in 3rd through 10th place - the great middle mass market? Are there existing markets we can learn from that have always been about selling the long tail?