The Long Tale: A market for the ‘less-popular’ things

The concept of the ‘Long Tail’ is quintessential of the e-commerce phenomena. This idea,  identified by Chris Anderson in 2004, recognises that e-commerce websites (such as Amazon and Alibaba) provide a wide-ranging, yet highly popular market for niche items. Essentially, brick and mortar stores do not have the capacity or the profitability to carry particular niche items. However, when compared with the online market, vendors are able to ‘stock’ these items whilst also exhibiting them to consumers. The sale of niche items is becoming a prominent market of many online stores.

GRAPH: The Long-tail graph.

GRAPH: The Long-tail graph.

The graph to the left illustrates the concept of the Long tail. In green is what Anderson defines as the the head (2004), which represents ‘hits’. As depicted, hits sell really well quickly, yet die off even quicker. In yellow is the long tail, which exhibits the niche items. Both sections are equal, yet the yellow section, or the long tail, continues to sell due to consumer demand.

A very successful example of the long tail theory is novelist Amanda Hocking. Hocking, after repeatedly being denied by publishers for her fantasy novels decided to publish and sell her novels online. Within two years Hocking had sold over 1.5 million copies of her novels and made $2.5 million (Pilkington 2012). As Anderson states, with a lack of manufacturing and logistics costs, a “miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit” (2004) and as such “popularity no longer has a monopoly” (2004). Hocking became a best-selling author without even having to publish a single page due to the consumer demand of her novel. Furthermore, as her books do not have to be stocked in stores, they can continually be bought online without the hassle of reprinting, transporting or shelving.

Another example is the Indonesian film, Raid 2: Berandal. The film is the second installment in the series by Gareth Evans and has become increasingly popular in niche markets. The Raid 2 is a gory, action-packed, foreign film starring fairly unknown actors to the Western world. Nevertheless, due to the astounding popularity of the first installment online, the second film received a wide release worldwide. This, however, was cut short due to low returns. Hopefully the film will continue to remain popular by hardcore-fans online.

Sources:

Anderson, C 2004, ‘The Long Tail’, Wired, vol. 12, no. 10, viewed 30 August, <http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html?pg=2&topic=tail&topic_set=&gt;

Mendelson, S 2014, ‘The Raid 2′ Bombed, But Sony Deserves Kudos For Going Wide’, Forbes, 15 April, viewed 31 August, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2014/04/15/the-raid-2-bombed-but-sony-deserves-kudos-for-going-wide/&gt;

Pilkington, E 2012, ‘Amanda Hocking, the writer who made millions by self-publishing online’, The Guardian, 13 January, viewed 31 August, <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing&gt;.

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The Long Tale: A market for the less-popular things

The concept of the Long Tail is quintessential of the e-commerce phenomena. This idea, first identified by Chris Anderson in 2004, recognises that e-commerce websites (such as Amazon and Alibaba) provide a wide-ranging, yet highly popular market for niche items. Essentially, stores do not have the capacity or the sales to hold any niche items, whereas in the online market, vendors are able to ‘stock’ these items whilst also exhibiting them to nice markets. These sales are now becoming the fundamental market of many online stores.

GRAPH: The Long-tail graph.

GRAPH: The Long-tail graph.

The graph to the left illustrates the concept of the Long tail. In green is what Anderson defines as the the head (2004), which depicts ‘hits’. As depicted, hits sell really well, yet die off even quicker. In yellow is the long tail, which exhibits the niche items. Both sections are equal, yet the yellow section, or the long tail, continues due to consumer demand.

A very successful example of the long tail theory is Amanda Hocking. Hocking, after repeatedly being denied by publishers for her fantasy novels decided to publish and sell her novels online. Within two years Hocking had sold over 1.5 million copies of her novels and made $2.5 million (Pilkington 2012). As Anderson states, with a lack of manufacturing and logistics costs, a “miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit” (2004) and as such “popularity no longer has a monopoly” (2004). Hocking became a best-selling author without even having to publish a single page due to the consumer demand of her novel. Furthermore, as her books do not have to be stocked in stores, they can continually be bought online without the hassle of shelving.

Another example is the Indonesian film, Raid 2: Berandal. The film is the second installment in the series by Gareth Evans and has become increasingly popular in niche markets. The film, is a gory, action-packed, foreign film starring zero A-listing American or otherwise actors. Nevertheless, due to the astounding popularity of the first installment online, the second film received a wide release worldwide. This, however, was cut short due to low returns. Hopefully the film will continue to remain popular by hardcore-fans online.

Sources:

Anderson, C 2004, ‘The Long Tail’, Wired, vol. 12, no. 10, viewed 30 August, <http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html?pg=2&topic=tail&topic_set=&gt;.

Mendelson, S 2014, ‘The Raid 2′ Bombed, But Sony Deserves Kudos For Going Wide’, Forbes, 15 April, viewed 31 August, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2014/04/15/the-raid-2-bombed-but-sony-deserves-kudos-for-going-wide/&gt;.

Pilkington, E 2012, ‘Amanda Hocking, the writer who made millions by self-publishing online’, The Guardian, 13 January, viewed 31 August, <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing&gt;.

How hard is going to the Movies?

Organising things are difficult. As soon as you have one (or more) people in your party, trying to organise an event becomes infinitely more complicated. Take trying to organise a trip to the movies for example.

Despite cinema attendance coming to a steady decline in the past few decades, the current standards of sound and visual quality at the cinemas are more superior than ever. Right now, cinemas have never experienced “so much silence and order inside the theatres” (Albano 2013). My close group of friends and I usually go to the movies once a week, so I guess you can call us avid movie goers compared to the rest of the population. We’re all free on a Thursday morning, and this time is usually perfect to chill out to a movie when it isn’t too busy.

When planning an event, such as an outing to the movies, Torsten Hagerstrand identifies three classes of constraints regarding time geography (aaa). These are:

  • Capability
  • Coupling
  • Authority

 Capability refers to the “limitations on human movement due to physical or biological factors” (Corbett 2001). In this instance, the constraint defines whether a person is literally capable of attending.  In my group of friends, we all have cars to physically attend the cinemas. Furthermore, the cinemas we always attend are nearby. Therefore at this point we are all capable of attending the cinemas.

The second constraint, coupling, refers to whether “your space-time path must temporarily link up with those of certain other people to accomplish a particular task” (Corbett 2001). In our circumstance, only three out of the five were able to attend the movie. As such, the coupling constraint hindered two member of our group from attending at the time chosen.

Authority, the last constraint, determines whether an area is “controlled by certain people or institutions that set limits on its access to particular individuals or groups” (Corbett 2001). In terms of the movies, this isn’t usually an issue. Unless, of course, you have that one friend that attempts to smuggle half their kitchen pantry past the movie ushers. In our case, on a Thursday morning, we found no authority constraints when attending.

Our movie experience was fairly ordinary. We were assigned seats, yet due to the lack of people in our matinee session we sat where we felt comfortable. For me, this is in the dead centre of seating – the middle-most seat in the middle row. To me, this seating is most relaxing. As there were only a few people in our session, we also had to abide by the No. 1 (unspoken) rule of movie etiquette, which is where you must not sit within one seat of another person and, if there is space, not in front of other people.

PHOTO: Netflix - the future of film?

PHOTO: Netflix – the future of film?

Considering the extreme lack of people in our session, it made me question the future of cinema attendance. Roger Ebert in late 2011 identified 6 key points to why cinema attendance has dropped (Ebert 2011). The most obvious are that the prices of tickets and snacks have exponentially increased, which is obvious considering movie theatre popcorn is more expensive per ounce then filet mignon. However, one of the most defining points the late Roger Ebert made (which ultimately led to the demise of BlockBuster) is that with the emergence and rise of alternative services such as downloading (legal and illegal) and streaming (Netflix), can the authentic and tradition experience of attending a movie continue to survive?

Sources:

Albano, L 2013, ‘Cinema and Psychoanalysis’, American Imago, vol. 70, no. 2, viewed 31 August, <http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/journals/american_imago/v070/70.2.albano.html&gt;.

Corbett, J 2001, ‘Torsten Hagerstrand: Time Geography’, Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science, viewed on 30 August, <http://www.csiss.org/classics/content/29&gt;.

Ebert, R 2011, ‘I’ll tell you why movie revenue is dropping’, Roger Ebert’s Journal, 28 December 2011, viewed 31 August, <http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/ill-tell-you-why-movie-revenue-is-dropping&gt;

Hagerstrand, T 1970, ‘What about people in regional spaces?’, Papers of the Regional Science Association, vol. 24, no. 1, p. 6 – 21

Watt, N 2008, ‘Why does Theatre Popcorn Cost so Much?’, ABC News, 25 July 2008, viewed 31 August, <http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/theater-popcorn-cost/story?id=5379179&gt;

Audio Visual Markets – Cinema Attendance 2014, Screen Australia, viewed 31 August, <http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/wcrmattend.aspx&gt;.

 

The NBN: Not for everyone… literally.

Living atop a mountain in the Illawarra brings many issues. The price in petrol to reach the top, the lousy mobile phone reception. But one of the biggest issues is the internet access. Internet access in my household is more of a privilege than a right, which is odd considering we live so close to the University.

MAP: The NBN in the Illawarra. The orange pointer marks my household.

MAP: The NBN in the Illawarra. The orange pointer marks my household.

The history of our household’s internet plans have been absolutely abhorrent. We are constantly switching between companies and plans and modems, hoping for a chance to find the Atlantis of internet connection. We are also always a target for telemarketers. It’s gotten to the point where everyone in my house refuses to answer the house phone just in case its another one, trying to up-sell us to the “New super-fantastic plan with extra speed and more download for only $$$, exclusive to you for being loyal customers”. With the implementation of the NBN, we all had hope for something better.

The picture to the left illustrates the access to the NBN in our area. The green areas outline where the NBN is planned to be built soon, whereas the areas in maroon depict where the NBN is currently available. As you can see, my household (under the orange marker) lies right in the middle between the developed areas. What is even more excruciating is that there are no plans for the NBN to be built in my area any time soon. So, for me, the difference between having ultra-fast internet speeds and waiting five minutes for just a 2 minute Youtube video to buffer is approximately 2 kilometres.

But even if we had access to the NBN, my family struggled to justify what we could achieve with the unfathomable internet speed. I talked to my mum again, who had previously lent her past experiences of early TV viewing here. I asked her what she could achieve if we did have access to the NBN.  Her response, as she was hopelessly trying to load up prices for holidays in Hawaii, was the exact same response as everyone else in my house: 

 “I could load things faster, couldn’t I?” – Mum, 50.

Guiltily, I myself had the same response.

I also talked to my friend, Zhangrui (better known as Ray), a Chinese university student currently living with us. Ray, prior to moving to Australia, lived in Shanghai, China. In Shanghai, Ray had access to optic-fibre internet (similar to the Labour government’s proposed NBN plan). He describes our current Australian internet as “absolutely terrible and frustrating”. 

So, what could I possibly do with the NBN? and what are the underlying benefits, if at all?

I decided to research how revolutionary the NBN is, or was, meant to be. I first found this website, http://howfastisthenbn.com.au, which was originally created to compare the Labour Party’s NBN and the Liberal National Party’s NBN (Brotchie 2013). The site, which is apparently unaffiliated with any political party, adequately illustrates the speed of the NBN – but struggles to find any purpose that isn’t recreational. The first example depicts the speed in uploading photos to Facebook, the second illustrates how fast we can download an episode of Game of Thrones (Brotchie 2013). It isn’t until to the last example do we see a non-recreational use for fast internet speed, which is upload documents to Drop Box (Brotchie 2013).

So other than uploading/downloading data faster, my family members still weren’t sure how an expensive program such as the NBN could be so revolutionary. I decided to do a little search online and found this article by Deloitte, a professional services company. This article addresses the benefits of the NBN that was planned under the previous Labor government late last year. In addition to households apparently saving $3800 annually as of 2020 (Ross 2013), the article proposes several innovations that will, apparently, revolutionise Australian households (Deloitte 2013, p. 5).

deloitte

FIGURE: Several scenarios outlining the benefits of the National Broadband Network. (SOURCE: Deloitte 2013, p. 6)

As depicted in the figure to the left, these innovations include:

  • Advanced medical treatment;
  • Online education;
  • Video conferencing;
  • And Teleworking.

These innovations are worthy of being labelled revolutionary, however, are only useful if you have access to the NBN. As Turner states, the original NBN rollout was planned to cover “3.5 million homes… covering one third of the country’s population” (2013). Now, under the current Liberal government, approximately two-thirds of this region’s construction has now been revoked.

Furthermore, according to ABS, from 2012-13 only 83% of Australians were internet users (2014). This may seem like a large amount, but that leaves 17% of the population without access to the internet. These people are usually living in remote areas outside of the metropolitan regions. Furthermore, the study found that more than half of Australia’s elderly are not internet users (ABS 2014). Of the portion that would most likely take advantage of the advanced medical treatment capable by the NBN, most wouldn’t have a clue it exists.

So what does this mean for those not living in metropolitan cities on the coastline, or even those living just 2 kilometre from where the NBN is accessible?

Considering that all capital cities and some surrounding areas have the National Broadband Network, to the outer areas who still have a basic internet connection, to those in remote areas without any access at all; is this not inciting a technological-class warfare where those with access have a clear advantage to basic human needs such as medical, education and work? And are those without access to the NBN now considered technologically-impoverished?

The NBN is a program that could provide Australia the leading edge to compete technologically with the remainder of the developed world, but its current implementation would only allow a privileged few that honour. 

SOURCES:

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, cat. no. 8146.0, ABS, Canberra.

Brotchie J 2013, How Fast is the NBN?, viewed 23 August 2014, <http://howfastisthenbn.com.au/#&gt;.

Deloitte 2013, Benefits of High-Speed Broadband for Australian Households, viewed 20 August 2014,<http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Australia/Local%20Assets/Documents/Services/Corporate%20Finance/Access%20Economics/Deloitte_Benefits_of_High_Speed_Broadband_2013.pdf&gt;.

Ross M 2013, ‘Households will be $3,800 richer by 2020 thanks to speedy broadband like NBN: report’, ABC News, 4 September 2013, viewed on 24 August 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-04/report-shows-households-will-be-3800-better-off-under-nbn/4932976&gt;.

Taylor J 2014, ‘Revealed: NBN Co scales back fibre rollout’, ZDnet, 14 April 2014, viewed on 24 August 2014, <http://www.zdnet.com/au/revealed-nbn-co-scales-back-fibre-rollout-7000028381/&gt;.

Turner A 2013, ‘NBN Co rewrites rollout map – will you miss out on fibre?’, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 October 2013, viewed on 25 August 2014,<http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/blog/gadgets-on-the-go/nbn-co-rewrites-rollout-map–will-you-miss-out-on-fibre-20131031-2wfcr.html&gt;.

From Industrial to Knowledge: The Shift to Immateriality

The shift to immateriality has been foretold for many decades, yet is now a common depiction of the current job market. This transition from industrial to knowledge production is still shaping our nation, and many others worldwide. 

GRAPH: US Manufacturing employment decline. (Source: Macromon)

GRAPH: US Manufacturing employment decline. (Source: Global Macro Monitor)

 

 

 

From 1996 to 2006, high-tech manufacturing jobs in the UK declined from over 440, 000 to just 288, 000 (Bradwell & Peeves, p. 25). These jobs, however, are not limited to industrial production. In fact, many jobs that still utilise manufacturing or similar skill-based work are “based around a range of service and knowledge-intensive endeavours” (Bradwell & Peeves, p. 25).

 

 

This further argued by Kelly (1999):

“Presently a mere 18% of U.S. employment is in manufacturing. But three quarters of those 18% actually perform network economy jobs while working for a manufacturing company. Instead of pushing atoms they push bits around: accountants, researchers, designers, marketing, sales, lawyers, and all the rest who sit at a desk.”

It is evident how in the last two decades knowledge-based work is dominating the labour market of developed nations, as depicted in the graph by Global Macro Monitor above. 

As previously stated, this transition was not a unforeseen occurrence. 15 years ago, Kelly (1999) stated how our “new economy” will be a product of three factors, “It is global. It favors intangible things—ideas, information, and relationships. And it is intensely interlinked”. All three factors are an underlying features of our current economy. However, another key factor is the competitiveness within the international market. With a shift to immateriality, nations and businesses must compete for the most viable and economical intangibles.

With the emergence of neo-liberal policies amongst Western nations, there has been a measurable focus in internationalising many aspects of our economy, whether it be manufacturing, trade and especially technology. Education is another aspect that has been transformed due to the shift to immateriality. Even our current Liberal government, as discussed by Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, is considering education reforms that would seemingly allow Australian educations, with a focus in knowledge-based careers, to compete with other universities internationally (Triple J Hack, 2013). 

Australia’s knowledge-based production will consistently determine to continue it’s competitiveness, as some employers recognise that without a competitive edge, productivity and economic advancement will be hindered (CPA Australia 2013, p. 5).

Sources:

Bradwell, P & Reeves, R 2008, ‘Economies’ in Networked Citizens, Demos, UK, pp. 25 – 31

CPA Australia 2013, Australia’s economic reform priorities, CPA Australia, viewed 20 August 2014, <http://www.cpaaustralia.com.au/documents/reformpriorities.pdf&gt;.

Kelly K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Penguin Books, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://kk.org/newrules/newrules-intro.html&gt;.

Global Macro Monitor 2012, U.S Employment in Manufacturing, WordPress, viewed 20 August 2014, <http://macromon.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/manufacturing-employment-in-the-u-s/&gt;.

Triple J Hack 2013, Education Minister Christopher Pyne on Hack, podcast, August 20 2014, Triple J Hack, viewed 20 August 2014, <https://soundcloud.com/triple-j-hack/education-minister-christopher-pyne-on-hack&gt;.

 

How Utopian is our Cyberspace?

The internet is utopian to some, and dystopian to others. Is it constantly clashing between what is right and wrong, whether it be morally, ethically, economically or lawfully. In a world of such ‘freedom’, how ‘free’ are we on the net?

In 1996, John Perry Barlow wrote ‘a Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace’, a short composition outlining the utopian hopes of the internet at the time. The declaration, whilst wildly outdated, addresses the several romantic cyber-utopian views: 

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

GRAPH: Internet Penetration in Africa as of 2012 and it's comparison with the world.

GRAPH: Internet Penetration in Africa as of 2012 and it’s comparison with the world.

Nearly twenty years ago, Barlow stated this. In twenty years of digital development, the internet is still very far from achieving such a goal. For instance, Africa still only has about 15% internet penetration, which is less than half of the world average. Therefore, our current cyberspace is still not a world where “all may enter” regardless of “station of birth.” Furthermore, Barlow addresses the internet as a world without borders, without a government. 

Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions

However, having lived in both Australia and China, and despite being a member of the virtual class, I am constantly a victim to an internet controlled by the boundaries of a nation. Whether it be a YouTube video which “the uploader has not made available in your country” (Australia), or even trying to access YouTube (China). The internet has created borders. These, of course, can easily be bypassed, but are ultimately unessential considering the internet is supposedly a world wide web

Barlow’s 1996 Declaration was created from a cyber-utopian perspective of the mid-1990s. This period, as Hetland (2012) states, is where the general public first encountered the internet as a mass media. These views and declarations, however, can be considered as thought-provoking suggestions, which pull and tug at the idea of border-less freedom. 

Last month the founder of 4chan, Chris Poole, possibly the most controversial social media platform ever created, was interviewed by The Guardian. 4chan is responsible for some of the internet’s earliest and most popular sub-cultures including ‘lolcatz’ and pioneering the infamous hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’. In the interview, Poole (2014) addresses most other social media platforms where a user creates and refines their digital profile, whereas 4chan relies and maintains internet anonymity. Considering 4chan has been at the foundation of internet revolution repeatedly, could internet anonymity rather than digital infamy be the key to a cyber-utopia?

Sources:

Barlow, J.P. 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Bernstein, M, Monroy-Hernandez, A, Harry, D, Andre, P, Panovich, K & Vargas, G 2011, ‘4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community. Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, AAAI Publications.

Hetland, P 2012, ‘Internet Between Utopia and Dystopia’, Nordicom Review, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 3 – 15.

Krotoski, A 2014, Founder of 4chan: Chris Poole, the ‘anti-Zuckerberg, podcast, 11 July 2014, The Guardian, viewed 16 August 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2014/jul/10/podcast-chris-pool-4chan-podcast?CMP=twt_gu>

 

 

 

 

 

Could Piracy become a form of Audience Measurement?

Just as television and radio are slowly becoming replaced by the their digital counterparts, could their methods of audience measurement also be becoming outdated? Many popular shows such as Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, although very popular by TV viewings, are pirated outrageously throughout the world. Despite what audience measurement might tell you, it may be a little more than 7.09 million people that tuned in for the Game of Thrones Season 4 finale. 

This is a serious issue for audience measurement researchers, as this undocumented and undetermined amount of people severely skew current data. However, the popularity of piracy for shows such as Game of Thrones isn’t new. Game of Thrones has repeatedly broken piracy ratings, such as this year’s season four finale which had over 1.5 million downloads in the first 12 hours of its release, and a total of approximately 7.5 million downloads a few days later. With such a large popularity in the illegitimate world of piracy, could piracy be a legitimate form of audience measurement?

Metro-Total-TV-320px

PHOTO: The coverage area of OzTam’s audience measurement research. (OzTAM)

Currently in Australia, OzTAM is the official source of audience measurement via Television in Australia. However, when you consider the actual area OzTAM surveys, it is completely disproportionate by solely focusing on metropolitan areas. Interestingly, OzTAM is able to measure audience ratings even with TimeShift technology, such as audiences using a DVR. However, what is not possible is for OzTAM to determine ‘percentage of commercials during playback’

Pirating content, particularly the latest episode of Game of Thrones, has become less of a crime and more of a social activity. With such a substantial amount of people torrenting, measuring file sharers activity is the next step in audience measurement. 

In the meantime, view this to rationalize your pirating ways.

Sources:

http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/06/17/sunday-cable-ratings-game-of-thrones-wins-night-world-cup-soccer-keeping-up-with-the-kardashians-nascar-more/274033/

https://torrentfreak.com/game-thrones-season-finale-sets-piracy-record-140616/

http://www.oztam.com.au/

http://www.oztam.com.au/FAQs.aspx

http://www.oztam.com.au/CoverageMaps.aspx

http://mcs.sagepub.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/content/27/5/677.full.pdf+html