Think what keeps you from storing and displaying more titles if you are a music store owner? Physical space right! It is the physical space constraint which forces even the mighty Wal-Mart to store just the top selling articles. There is only so much space!
But is there a market only for ‘hits’? Well, undoubtedly the market for hits is large and hot which is why they have become hits. But if you think so you are losing out on the market for ‘non-hits’, it is equally big if not bigger than the hits’ market. Not convinced? Read on!
‘Touching the Void’ story
Take the case of the book ‘Touching the Void’. When this book about adventure gone wrong in formidable Peruvian Andes was released, it got ok reviews, sold a few and was forgotten, taken off the shelves of book shops.
Then some years later, in fact a decade later, a book titled ‘Into Thin Air’ was released. This book dealt with the same mountain climbing tragedy, this time in Himalayas. This book became a monster hit.
Strangely the sale of earlier Andes misadventure book also picked up. So much so that publishers rushed out a new edition to keep up with demand. It went on to spend 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, became subject of a critically acclaimed docudrama. Soon Touching the Void outsold Into Thin Air by more than two to one.
So, what happened? It got recommended by Amazon.com whose software picked on the buying behavior and recommended Touching the Void to the people looking for Into Thin Air. People took the cue, read the recommended book, agreed wholeheartedly, and wrote rhapsodic reviews. More recommendations, this time reader ones, and the positive feedback loop kicked in.
The readers of Into Thin Air never knew about Touching the Void and even if they had, they wouldn’t have found it, if not for Amazon. Touching the Void phenomenon happened because Amazon offered real-time information about buying trends and public opinion together with infinite shelf space. The result: rising demand for an obscure book.
What this story proves?
It proves that there is market beyond the ‘hits’. There are people and there are products which are not for mass consumption. They are the niche ones. Take the case of Bollywood movies. Just because American demographic density consists of too few Indians does not mean that they as a market can be ignored.
But ignored they are, if fate of their top, Oscar nominated movie Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India is anything to go by. A measly two screen opening for around 1.7 million Indians in the US! Just because Indian population is so very thinly spread! This precisely is the limitation of physical dimension of doing business. Take the physical constraints out and you will have found the gold mine, the long tail, the niche market, the beyond the hits market! As Netflix has – now Bollywood alone accounts for nearly 100,000 rentals each month.
Long tail breaks the tyranny of physical space and hits. It is this unholy collaboration which decides what you want to sell, which every one is also offering. So rise above the competition by tapping into whole new market, the Internet way, as Amazon has, as Ebay has!
The Long Tail
Long Tail is mass servicing the micromarkets largely through web based delivery system. It is about focusing on the less popular content that previously couldn’t be accessed because of some physical limitation: most often shelf space. Due to its focus on both mass markets through hits, and niche market through selected offerings, you can find everything out there on the Long Tail. There are older albums, old movie titles, documentaries, live tracks, B-sides, remixes, even covers. There are niches by the thousands, genre within genre within genre.
The Long Tail signifies the difference between push and pull, between broadcast and personalized tastes. By offering mass customization as an alternative to mass-market fare Long Tail businesses treat consumers as individuals. The long tail option has introduced a world of abundance in the world of scarcity.