Sunday, October 10, 2004

Wagging the Tail

From the "I thought it was just me department": In the October 2004 issue of Wired, Chris Anderson's article, "The Long Tail," shines a bright light on the economics of media distribution. Anderson points out that there is constant and continuing demand for the 99% of media titles (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) that don't ever make it to your local Wal-Mart. With digital content online, the economics of delivery of the "other 99%" to the consumer is virtually identical to delivering the hits, and therefore savvy marketers appealing to a niche stand to make as much money, or more, than traditional media retailers. This article is chock full of interesting and thought provoking concepts. For example, Robbie Vann-Adibé, CEO of Ecast, a digital jukebox company whose players contain over 150,000 tracks, says that 99% of the top 10,000 titles sell/rent at least once per month. Most people assume only 20% do.

Lovers of klezmer music, Godfrey Reggio movies, and/or Dutch-born detective fiction authors rejoice! Your tastes are not strange affectations, but expected (and lucrative) minor detours from the main media highway.

Librarians have had a feel for these concepts for years, maintaining significant book collections and periodical backfiles against the day a patron would request the title. Will electronic resources enhance libraries' ability to deliver non-best sellers to their patrons? And to further surprise and delight their patrons with "just the right thing"?

This article is a must read. [via Joi Ito]