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January 06, 2005



How 'bout

"Economic dark matter made visible."

"Mining the subterranean economy."

"An embarrassment of niches."

Patrick Di Justo

How about this:

The Long Tail = (eBay + Amazon) * Google

It's the "you can buy unheard-of stuff" aspect of eBay, added to the security and efficiency of Amazon, multiplied by Google's ability to find anything.

Sean Devine

I like E (the story of...) + G (comment about "the what").

Bob Baker

I combined parts of B and E with my own spin:

"The Long Tail is the story of how products that were once considered fringe, underground or independent now collectively make up a market share that rivals the bestsellers and blockbusters."

Artist Empowerment Blog

Jason Foster

"The 'long tail' is the realisation that enough small markets are woth more as much, if not more, than a few large markets."


Hooray for Jason! He got it exactly right. Say at, as best you can, without jargon or marketspeak.

Doug Stone

In your LT (well, since you didn't get that domain, your TLT) definition, I would make sure you include something about the quality (at least in the eye of the beholder) of the products available. LT=(eBay+Amazon)*Google is a start in the right direction, because it includes the recommendation/review aspect as well as availability of small volume products. The LT refers to these products, yet then the definitions mostly speak in terms of what they are not (they're not hits, they're not Britney). So now you can get the book that will change your life, not just claim it does. LT=Democratic Marketing, because consumers will make marketers work harder to gain influence, due to the availability to the consumer of lots of product info. It has already positively influenced manufacturing quality and it may force producers to more closely fill needs. The consumer now has an alternative.

Al Abut

Whoa, ten points for the one I saw above: "Trickle Up Economy"

It seems like the discussion is breaking the initial task down into two components: a definition and a motto, both necessary in my opinion.


The long tail: The Ants Are Bigger Than The Elephant.

Chris Anderson

These are all great; it will be hard to pick a winner. As for "log", it's an actual typo in the dictionary.com definition of "longtail". I assume that's supposed to be "dog".

Adam Smith

None of these sound natural enough, too much jargon. Your piece in wired was great because it was written in plain English.

I'd go with something like.

"The Long Tail is the millions of products and services that are not the most popular in a category, but are still valued by someone"

I also like Greg's
"Long Tail-The 80% of stuff that didn't used to be worth selling." or a variation

and Jason's

"The 'long tail' is the realisation that enough small markets are woth more as much, if not more, than a few large markets."

David E. Pope

"The Long Tail: When a marketplace is no longer constrained by physical inventory, mass consumption is driven by niche interests spread across an unimaginable breadth of product offerings."


The Long Tail: When people can buy what they really want, not just something the corporate distrubution chain wants them to want.

I think of it as the tail of a scorpion reaching over it's head to sting the corporate hand around it's neck.


A, definitelly

Dean Brooks

This may seem like too technical a comment, but for what it is worth . . .

I have done some work on reconciling Pareto/Zipf/power law curves with the increasing marginal efficiency curve known as the Wright-Henderson law (which is better known in a somewhat different form as Moore's Law of computing power). This is the law that says if you make 10 times as much of something, the unit cost will fall by about half.

I came up with a general law, which I call the "ontic" distribution, that fits quite well with all of these. Among its unexpected benefits, it can be used to forecast the durations of events, from telephone calls, to wars, to how long software clients stay supported, to how long political parties will stay in power. It also does a nice job of predicting the distribution of profits among Fortune 500 companies.

My point is, the "long tail" of book sales or TV audience share is just one consequence of a much, much wider phenomenon. It's the tip of the iceberg, one out of a range of very similar "long tail" curves. Rather than focus too closely on just the market-share curve, you should also look at the decline in unit and transaction costs as total volume expands, or the decreasing average duration of customer involvement with a given vendor, as the number of customers in a market increases.

Why? Because the phenomenon you've identified, symbolized by the Amazon booklist, is a symptom. The cause lies much deeper. Since the cost curve, customer loyalty curve, and market share curve have similar shapes, which curve is really the most important? Maybe none of them are. Maybe the shape itself and what it tells us about the natural order is the most important thing.

I hope I'm not derailing the discussion too much, but I think you need to look at the wider possibilities before settling on your theme or trying to define what is really going on. You can download a free size-law journal, Frequencies, explaining this and much more at:


David Locke

Back before Wal-Mart, there were small towns. Those small towns were just productive enough to send goods to the city and then later, after transporation improvements, the mass market. The people in these small towns didn't just struggle to earn a subsistance living, they thrived. And, they did that without the mass market. The success of that economic model is apparent in the built environment, in the mansions, in the castles, and in the farms.

Success was a matter of being a few bits above entropy, a few bits that we call trending to the limit. There is an infinity in that limit, a vast market.

Life itself succeeds a few bits above entropy where it is trapped by numerous limits, and yet succeeds because of physical spaces that allow and encourage transactions in the very small.

Mass markets and their triumph built a culture, a cultural gradient, a cultural topology, a culture of one that ignored the cultures of the many.

When business people talk about busting silos, they are basing that notion on homogenous technologies that ignored the cultural topology. The right software won't bust silos, but will use the cultural topologies in multi-culture corporations without insisting on line supremacy, without disregarding the economic benefits of the division on labor. Work itself will be a long tail, instead of a thin bandwidth semantics.

The long tail should be everywhere. That it isn't is a sign that the past has driven us to the wrong place.

Pareto efficencies insist on a reality of a single axis, one-dimensional metric for an n-dimensional space. Visualize that and realize just how fragile and thin the known efficencies are.

Cultures are the addresses. Cultural variation is infinite. The mass market culture is a single culture with which we transact, but don't subscribe to. I have never been a mass market. I am a market of one.

How many people live on this planet? That's how big any market is.

Do I want a CRM system? So how long can this sales rep wait? One day, oh, yeah, one day. Call it lifetime value.


Long tail = pickings left after the tiger have eaten their fill

new technology

this is so true. Keep up the good work.

new technology blog


It's sad to also think that there are so many people that rely strictly on what there competitors are doing, simply bidding on the same keywords instead finding there own, undiscovered, long tails.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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