One of the great things about setting out to do proper research on a subject is that it tends to inspire others to do the same. So along with all the impressive business analysis of the Long Tail that we've been chronicling here, there's quite of bit of academic research that's starting to come out, too. Here's a round-up of some of the more interesting recent papers that have come to my attention. There are no doubt others (indeed, I know of a few coming out in journals that don't allow pre-publication posting), so I'll update this post or add another one as they cross my desk:
Anita Elberse and Felix Oberholzer-Gee (Harvard Business School)
Sample quote: "We study the distribution of revenues across products in the context of the U.S. home video industry for the 2000 to 2005 period. We find superstar and long-tail effects in home video sales, but each effect comes with a twist. There is a long-tail effect in that the number of titles that sell only a few copies every week increases almost twofold during our study period. But at the same time, the number of non-selling titles rises rapidly; it is now four times as high as in 2000."
Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT), Yu “Jeffrey” Hu (Perdue University) and Duncan Simester (MIT)
Sample quote: "The 80/20 rule has proved to describe the product sales distribution very well in a traditional business environment. However, the Internet seems to have changed this balance. By greatly lowering search costs, by creating virtually unlimited “shelf space” and by facilitating powerful recommender system, information technology in general and online markets in particular have the potential to radically increase the collective share of niche products, and flatten the sales distribution."
Erik Brynjolfsson (MIT), Yu “Jeffrey” Hu (Purdue University) and Michael D. Smith (Carnegie Mellon University)
Sample quote: "The study used a data set collected from a medium-sized retailing company that sells the same assortment of clothing through a catalog and an Internet website. We found that, Internet customers were much more likely to by niche products. Interesting, even after controlling for customer selection bias between the two channels by focusing only on those customers who used both channels, product sales were still significantly more evenly distributed on the Internet than through the catalog channel. The more even product distribution online is consistent with the theory that lower search cost through the Internet channel, caused by Internet search, browsing, and recommendation tools, can increase the collective share of niche and obscure products, leading to a more even product sales distribution online."
Jure Leskovek (Carnegie Mellon University), Lada A. Adamic (University of Michigan) and Bernardo A. Huberman (HP Labs)
Sample quote: "We analyze how user behavior varies within user communities defined by a recommendation network. Product purchases follow a ’long tail’ where a significant share of purchases belongs to rarely sold items. We establish how the recommendation network grows over time and how effective it is from the viewpoint of the sender and receiver of the recommendations. While on average recommendations are not very effective at inducing purchases and do not spread very far, we present a model that successfully identifies communities, product and pricing categories for which viral marketing seems to be very effective"
Paul Caron (University of Cincinnati)
Sample quote: "[T]he many hundreds or thousands of law review articles with only a
few readers each may cumulatively have many readers—the proverbial “long tail.” And this “long tail” is important—because it signals the importance of microaudiences and microcommunities of scholars."