21 September 2011

Book Review

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson 

“Niche is the future” would be an adequate way of summarizing The Long Tail.  Chris Anderson runs with this idea for over two hundred pages, which is about 150 pages more than necessary.

His argument can be summed up as follows:  the cost of production is decreasing radically (cf. print-on-demand), the cost of distribution is diminishing radically (cf. MP3 downloads), and people have very niche desires (cf. the sheer variety of music genres, film genres, book genres, etc.).  As such, it will become easier and cheaper for people to satisfy their niche desires, which means that there is plenty of money to made in serving niche desires.

Anderson dubs this phenomenon the “long tail” because the distribution of goods and services tends to be heavily concentrated among a few giants and a ton of “little players.”  In essence, the distribution of goods and services tend to follow normal power law distributions.  But, as technology decreases the cost of production and distribution, power will shift away from the head of the power curve to the tail, making servicing niche markets more lucrative.

In all, the book is intriguing read, and should provide a decent guide to the near future.  However, the book drags in parts and is, for the most part, overlong.  The best thing to do would be to skim the book and study the charts.  The Long Tail just doesn’t merit the time it demands.

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