Spend a minute with anyone working in interactive and you're bound to hear at least a vague reference to the long tail -- a theory put forward by Chris Anderson in his book by the same name. But for all the talk, interactive is still grappling with two fundamental questions: What does the long tail really mean, and is it something that you should be pursuing?
The long tail has different meanings whether you are in manufacturing or advertising. But it basically refers to the idea that a small group of product offerings or keyword lists covers the majority of the market opportunity. It's really the 80/20 rule. If you only have to make a certain number of products to cover 80 percent of the market, it would require a lot more effort to go after that remaining 20 percent. Often that 20 percent is too much to justify the costs, begging the question: is it worth it?
The same holds true for keywords. It's likely that a small number of keywords bring in 80 percent of your traffic or sales. But what about the remaining 20 percent?
Before automation on both sides, that portion of the market was impossible to go after efficiently. Now that automation makes it possible, the question remains: should you?
This article will speak to the product side. Later, I will tackle the other side of the equation -- SEM.
The long tail reality
The internet was going to enable thousands, no, tens of thousands of niche offerings. And those offerings would be so highly-customized to speak to consumers' need states that you'd be optimizing and reaching the maximum market opportunity. The reality is something different. There are arguments on both sides as to the value, but it is often a perceptive conclusion. It all depends on what data set you're looking at, and whether you are the big brand looking to expand product offerings or the small brand concentrating on a niche.
There was an intriguing article in the Harvard Business Review about whether you should invest in the long tail. It's a great article, but it draws some strange conclusions as to next steps. The article speaks to what is essentially the 80/20 rule, using various published studies. Theory is great and all, and citing other studies is often quite impressive to bolster your point, as this article did. However, the devil is in the details.
Next page >>