Longtail: no not a cat tail but a tail nevertheless Image source: verticalresponse
Corporate business that have a chain of retailers are likely to sell “main stream” items especially in regards to the entertainment industry (Books, Movies and Music). This is due to the simple fact that main stream popular media will sell at a higher rate than a niche product and therefore produce a higher profit for the retailer. I find this the case when I am looking for novels/ niche Metal music in Australia’s Big W stores; as retailers only sell mainstream entertainment media as demonstrated by the Longtail model shown in the image below.
Image source: IDC exchange
The exponential curve shows expected sales of certain items based on the items popularity. The high point of the curve, which is left of the median, represents the mainstream items which a large retail chain would sell. While the curve that lies to the right of the median represents an increasingly niche market, with lower “dollar per sale” but lies within a significantly longer curve known as the “Long Tail”; as Anderson (2004 p.3) states ‘What’s really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it’. The Long tail is where you can find everything ‘back catalogue, older albums, live tracks, remixes…’ (Anderson 2004 p.2).
Online stores such as Amazon and Bookdepository are able to provide recommendations which can lead the audience/consumer to view a product which may not otherwise have been seen due to the product being part of the niche market and situated in the long tail. I have found that this is an increasingly available online service with sites such as Goodreads also using a recommendation service after the user has rated a certain amount of novels. This can direct attention to novels that would not otherwise have received attention, especially at a physical store, as it is not in the top twenty percent which will make the store a profit. Online stores are able to promote these items from the long tail as it does not cost them a lot with the shop being online compared to a physical shop which must pre-order stock and pre- pay for this stock.
Why pay when you can download for free?
Then you come to this question about music and novels which are copied or promoted by the artist as a free download. As Mitew (2013) states ‘Why would you pay for something that you can get for free?’.Amanda Palmer is an artist that allows her music to be downloaded for free and in an interview she states that it is all about the art of giving (TedTalks 2013). Amanda ‘asked her crowd to catch her’, with fans backing her at 1.2million dollars, she then goes on to state how she is often asked how she makes her fans pay (TedTalks 2013), where she simply replies;
“ And the real answer is, I didn’t make them. I asked them. And through the very act of asking people, I’d connected with them,“- TedTalks(2013)
Amanda Palmer is living proof that even if the media is free, if you ask fans and if these fans have an emotional connection to the product, they are willing to pay for the service.
The long tail model is allowing online stores to direct audience attention to a niche market where sometimes the media is free. Physical stores often only sell the top 20% of the market to gain a profit, however, with the example of Amanda Palmer it is clear that even if the media is free, if you simply ask people to buy the media they often will and that sharing of media products is not only about where you can make the most profit.
Anderson, C 2004, ‘The Long Tail’, Wired, vol. 12, no. 10, <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html>
Mitew, T 2013, ‘Into the cloud: the long tail and the attention economy’, Prezi Slides, DIGC202, University of Wollongong, viewed date 12th September, <http://prezi.com/nm7rgdlnxhdf/digc202-into-the-cloud-the-long-tail-and-the-attention-economy/>
Ted Talks, 2013, Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking, Online Video, posted March 2013, Ted, viewed 10th September 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html>