Escape from the Long Tail

Ian Holsman wonders about what causes things to rise up out of the long tail. That, certainly is the question! It’s the question the activist asks; how do I get my movement to move? It’s the question standards maker asks, how do I get folks to climb on my bandwagon? It’s the question the entrepeur asks, how do I launch my product, generate my buzz. It’s the question asked of the infectious desease in the jungle, will you become the next plague? It’s the question asked by the investor, when is this idea about to sweep thru the crowd becoming the conventional wisdom? It’s the question that every open source project asks, what keeps the community together and moving forward? All of these domains have answers to the question. It’s amazingly tedious reading your way thru it all!

This question seems to illuminate one of my problems with Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail. He noticed that some business models have managed to dodge this question. They avoid answering the question by betting not on an idea but instead on a vast portfolio of ideas. These businesses are not in the long tail; they are leveraging it. They solve some problem, distribution say, that is widespread. That’s a good thing, and solving it creates advantages for members of the long tail. That creation of advantage energizes them, makes them more mobile, helps them get out of the jungle and into the cities where they can spread more casually.

What Chris is calling the long tail business models are like whales. They feed by straining the vast watery long tail drawing a calories off the occationally lumpy bits So it’s not surprising that Chris frames the Ian’s question in terms of filtering. That’s how the large firms see it. But that isn’t how the small entity sees it.

The whales that Chris first noticed were disruptive about distribution channel; i.e. Amazon, Netflix, etc. can have seemingly infinite shelf space. The giant box stores like Home Depot are another example of this kind of monster. Google, for example, a whale of the filtering kind. What I think of as the “findablity” problem. The Yellow-pages was a precursor of that kind of beast.

The commercial answer to Ian’s question? Buy ad sense ads?

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