eTech05: Economics of the Long Tail

Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine, gave spoke at eTech on the topic of the economics of the Long Tail. The Long Tail refers to a distribution curve that has many points to the right of the curve. The number of different words folks use to find this site demonstrate the Long Tail; at any given time, a few hundred of the past thousand visitors came after searching for a single word or phrase. That is, over 10 folks came looking for my Challa bread recipe, but many hundreds came for different topics.

Rather than try and recapture this talk in a few short words, it’s probably more worth your time to read the Long Tail article itself.

Given the sheer number of people in the world, with so many different ways of approaching life, there is a real opportunity for those who pay attention to the Long Tail and its implications.

Examples of the Long Tail in action include eBay, where you can sell virtually anything! Also, the google adwords program, where ads are explicitly tailored to match the content on the page where they are displayed. All this is related to the slightly older concept of “mass markets of one”.

Chris explores these topics in more detail on his blog.

In the discussion that followed this talk, one of the founders of Excite mentioned that part of the reason Excite went out of business was that they didn’t appreciate the Long Tail. Though most of their queries were similar to what I see on this site, unique words/terms, their advertising model was more traditional, and aimed at the head. Unfortunately, there was no real head, and so no monies were made. Contrast to google where the adwords are very specifically tied to a particular, often Long Tail in nature, web page.