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The Long Tail Book Review Essay Sample

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The Long Tail Book Review Essay Sample

Chris Anderson was born on July 9, 1961. He is an American author. He was with The Economist for seven years, then joining WIRED magazine in 2001 where he was the editor-in-chief until 2012. He is known for his 2004 article entitled The Long Tail; which he later expanded into the 2006 book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. He is the co-founder and chairman of 3DRobotics, a robotic manufacturing company. His book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More appeared on the New York Times Nonfiction Best Sellers list. The details of which have been described in the review. His next book, entitled Free: The Future of a Radical Price (2009) examines the advantages of a strategy where products and services are initially given to customers for free, and how businesses can profit more in the long run. Anderson’s third book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (2012), was based on his 2010 article, “Atoms Are the New Bits”.

The book describes how entrepreneurs using open source design, and 3D printing as a platform for driving resurgence of American manufacturing. The ideas he portrayed; such as crowdsourcing of ideas, utilization of available lower-cost design and manufacturing tools, and reviewing options to outsource capital-intensive manufacturing were highlighted in the February 2012 Harvard Business Review article, “From Do It Yourself to Do It Together”. In October 2007, Anderson, who has been described as an “aerial-reconnaissance enthusiast,” flew a remote-controlled aircraft allegedly equipped with a camera over Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, causing security concerns when the aircraft crashed into a tree. The enthusiasm turned inspiration for co-founding 3D Robotics, a 2009 robotics manufacturing spin-off of the DIYdrones.com.

About the book:

The book is mainly aimed at connecting the younger graduate section of the United States. It discusses how business is at the end of an era and the beginning of another era. Business is exiting out of the era where it was a seller’s market or to say industry dictated era wherein the consumers will consume through catalogues, blockbuster artists, etc. and entering into a consumer dictated era or buyer’s market. Basically to say that the market is shifting from mainstream to more customized/personalized products. In the entire book he mainly shares how different companies like iTunes, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Lego, Netflix and Wikipedia, transitioned traditional bricks & mortar businesses into effective web based businesses with almost unlimited potential.

The concept of Long Tail evolves from the fact being that the demand for unlimited niches continues while those of the traditional similar products continue to decline. He gives an example of online music retailer Rhapsody, describing its demand curve which has a huge appeal for the top tracks, trailing off quickly for less popular ones. The extraordinary thing explained is that as the number of tracks increase the demand keeps going, thus to say as fast as Rhapsody adds tracks to its library , those songs find an audience, even if it’s just a handful of people every month, somewhere in the world. This descries the Long Tail.

Google for instance does not make much money from huge corporate advertisers but form the small ones, which again is the Long Tail of advertising. EBay needs special mention which has not only captured the old market overcoming limitations of geography and scale but also discovered an entirely new market as well. As these companies offer more and more, they found that demand actually followed supply. The innumerable products offered along the tail with may be few people liking each of them still is a big number, which is again gradually becoming bigger. The author beautifully explains this by saying

“The only way to think of the difference between yesterday’s limited choice and today’s abundance is as if our culture were an ocean and the only features above the surface were islands of hits” The economy of traditional, hit-driven retail limits choice which can be tested even today. Vast majority of products are not available at the stores near us. The author believes that lowering the costs to connect supply and demand would drastically change the entire market scenario which will lead to a qualitative change as well; the niches would shift demand further creating a positive feedback loop that will transform entire industries and the culture.


The author entails that from purely virtual retailers such as eBay to the online side of traditional retailing, the virtues of unlimited shelf space, abundant information and smart ways to find what we want, long tail markets are practically everywhere we look. Just as Google is finding ways to tap the Long tail of advertising, Microsoft is extending the tail of video games into small and cheap games that we can download on its Xbox Live network. Open source software projects such as Linux and Firefox are the long tail of programming talent. The growth of customized T-shirts, shoes, and other clothing is the Long Tail of fashion and the growth of online universities is the Long tail of education.

To justify his theory the analysis of “Long Tail of national security” by John Robb, a military analyst has also been described. He says traditionally, warfare has been limited to nation-states, except in rare cases. States had a monopoly on violence. But, due to factors like a democratization of the tools of warfare, an amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare and the acceleration of word of mouth resulted in a Long Tail. Niche producers of violence have flourished; demand for these suppliers has also increased considerably. Big concepts (such as struggle between Islam and U.S., not championed by states, have supercharged niche suppliers like al Qaeda and its clones.


A long tail is just culture unfiltered by economic scarcity.
The three forces of the Long tail are:

* Democratize Production
* Democratize Distribution
* Connect supply and Demand

Democratize Production: The best example to this is our personal computers, which has everything from printing press to the film and music studios in the hands of anyone of us. It gives each individual a chance to explore, create and share what they want, inevitably giving a fair chance for gems to emerge. The result being more information available to us every day, the rate of which is increasing at a rapid pace. ‘More stuff, which lengthens the Tail’

Democratize Distribution: This force is cutting cost of consumption by democratizing distribution. The fact that anyone can make content is only meaningful if others can enjoy it. Examples which facilitate distribution are Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Netflix. ‘More access to niches, which fattens the Tail’

Connect supply and Demand: This force introduces consumers to the new and newly available goods and driving demand down the Tail. This can take the form of any recommendations along with word-of-mouth, from blogs to customer reviews. The effect of all this for consumers is to lower the “search costs” of finding niche content. ‘Drives business from hits to niches’

Critical Factor:

Filters are an essential component to a functioning Long Tail, without them it risks just being noise. In a traditional “short-head” market this isn’t much of a problem, because everything on the shelf has been prefiltered to remove outliers and other products. But, in a long tail market, which includes almost everything, noise can be a huge problem. If left unchecked this can kill market, degrade quality and results to a scenario where people don’t buy. It is a non-zero sum game as unlimited shelf space is available. Inventory is ‘non-rivalrous’ on the web and the ratio of good to bad is simply a signal to noise problem, solvable with information tools.

As they are not prefiltered by the requirements of distribution bottlenecks, as a result their components vary wildly in quality, just like everything else in the world. The challenge of filtering is to be able to tell one from other. If we use better filters, the chances of us finding something just right places us to a greater position in the Tail. Filters not only drive demand down the Tail, but they can also increase satisfaction by connecting people with products that are more right for them than the broad-appeal products at the Head.

Filters can be of two types: pre-filters and post filters

Pre-filters include editors, record label scouts, studio executives, department store buyers, marketers, advertisers. Post-filters include blogs, playlists, reviews, customers, recommendations, and consumers. The fact that post-filters amplify, rather than predict, behaviour is an important distinction. In Long Tail markets, the role of filter then shifts from gatekeeper to advisor. Rather than predicting taste, post filters such as Google measure it. Interestingly, the author considers himself to be doing both pre-filtering and post-filtering. He says he indulges in brutal discrimination and guesswork to decide which articles to run, and then states that WEIRD also does lots of product reviews, and in that respect it’s post-filtering. Lastly, he says that the day people decide what makes it to the market and what doesn’t is fading. Soon everything will make it to market and the real opportunity will be in sorting it all out.

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