The Long Tail of Economics

Looking back over some of my recent posts, I’m seeing a recurring pattern with the mention of Wired.  Seems I’ve rediscovered what I knew to be a great source in times past.  This time, it’s Wired’s article on The Long Tail, which is actually a reference to the “obscure” content that isn’t all that popular in a store’s inventory.  The fact that it isn’t as popular, though, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t generate sales.

With newer stores that don’t deal with physical inventories (or, at least, not in the same way as brick-and-mortar stores do), it’s been found that this “long tail” of inventory actually generates at least as many sales in total as the “popular” inventory.  Sure, each item may only sell a few dozen or even only a few, but there are thousands and thousands of them and they add up to a very large chunk together.  Amazon, iTunes, Netflix… all of these have found that their less popular content is at least as profitable as the mainstream “hit” content.

The article is a good read on some of the economics that are running behind the scenes here.  In the future, maybe we won’t have to worry about “out of print” books or not being able to easily get hold of that obscure import album from your favorite band.

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