29 July 2006

The vision of the long tail

Book reviews are not the norm for me or for this blog, and you will not find this a comprehensive review of the book, but Chris Anderson was kind enough to extend a prerelease copy and it definitely struck a cord.

While Chris has termed a somewhat mundane and well-known phenomenon as the “Long Tail” (a variation of what has been taught in stats classes for years as the Pareto’s principle or the 80/20 rule in more laymen’s terms) he brings an evidentiary vision that has crucial implication to the digital world.

There have been many reviews that both rail on, and complement the book. I find it visionary and a must read for anyone in small business or in marketing.

Let me give you a quick example. I lived in Kansas for most my life. For some reason the laws in Kansas will not allow the ownership of more than one liquor store to a single person. This eliminates the chain stores very effectively. Score one for the entrepreneur. Further, only liquor stores can carry anything other than beer. This allows each storeowner to positions themselves and somewhat unique – or at least ale to accommodate the exact nature of their clientele. Just across the state line, this is not the case. The grocery stores and drug stores are all well stocked with wine, whiskeys and other so called “hard” liquors. Being a graduate student for the last few years I have developed an expertise in the under nine-dollar bottle of wine. In Missouri, I get a very limited choice – those titles that the chain store distribution channel deems worthy of the trouble of stocking. In Kansas, many liquor storeowners pride themselves on a unique and thoughtful selection of wines. This allows me to explore more than the mainstream.

I like a better selection. I like not being strictly in the mainstream. Sure, there are purchase decisions that I make with little thought and I tend to follow brands or even on brands (big fan of Target’s Archer Farms). Call me an elitist or a snob, but in some areas I like a broad selection that allows me to explore beyond the “short tail”. In my choice of music, movies, wine, beer, software and many other areas, I now have more choices. More are to come and I am ready!