“The Long Tail” was first published as an article in the Wired magazine in October 2004. It soon became the magazine’s most cited article. The book explores how niche businesses if aggregated can account for a significant market. It examines a scenario where “the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.”
Anderson records the data from the entertainment industry to show that if the 20th century was about hits, then the 21st century will be dominated by the niches.
Anderson examines the huge potential of this long tail of business saying that Google makes most of its money not from the big businesses but from small ones.Critical in this regard, is of course the new Internet economy. The book argues that “the web simply unified the elements of a supply chain revolution that had been brewing or decades.”
Anderson goes on to say that the long tail extends everywhere from PR and sports to ads and technology. Open source software projects like Linux ans Firefox are the long tail of programming, even as offshoring taps the long tail of labor.
Anderson also examines the new blog economy. The book argues that blogging has unearthed the long tail of publishing. A few years ago, I would have struggled to get my reviews published in a journal of repute but blogs have given us the much needed creative freedom and platform for expression that the long tail of writers struggled with all these years.However, despite being a path breaking research of sorts, where the book does fall short is in its excessive focus on the entertainment industry. So the result is that while the other industries are touched upon, they are not dealt with at length. The other critical area that is left untouched is the prognosis on how will the monetisation take place in case of the long tail aggregators like Google, for instance. Will these modes of free expression like social media platforms like Youtube and Blogger shed their free status and become paid?These are some of the questions that continue to irk the reader even after finishing what one would call one of the better books of our times.