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.
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.
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=>
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/>
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>.