I’m in the middle of a massive reading streak for my comprehensive exams, but I’m trying to sneak in some personal reading at the same time. The first book in that ‘extra’ reading is Anderson’s “The Long Tail”, which focuses on the effect that shifting to digital systems has for economic scarcities, producers, aggregators, and consumers.
The key insight that Anderson brings to the table is this: with the birth of digital retail and communication systems, customers can find niche goods that appeal to their personal interests and tastes, rather than exclusively focusing on goods that retailers expect will be hits. This means that customers can follow the ‘long tail’, or the line of niche goods that are individually less and less likely to sell in a mass retail environment.
There are several ‘drivers’ of the long tail:
- There are far more niche goods than ‘hits’ (massively popular works), and more and more niche goods are being produced with the falling costs of production and distribution in various fields.
- Filters are more and more effective, which means that consumers can find niches they are interested in.
- There are so many niche items that, collectively, they can comprise a market rivaling hits.
- Without distribution bottlenecks, the ‘true’ elongated tail of the present Western economic reality is made apparent.