the long tail: maybe not so long after all

As reported by the Times Online (UK), a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that Chris Anderson's Long Tail principle as applied to internet music distribution may not be quite the revolutionary new business paradigm that Anderson proposes.

Mr. Anderson's thesis is that catering to niche markets is the road to success for internet sellers. Subtitles to his book include, How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand and Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. (Have you ever noticed how often the subtitles to business strategy books obviate the need to actually read the book?)

Mr. Page and his co-researcher Andrew Bud found that, for music at least, the niche market is not, in fact, a business bonanza and that internet sales success still largely relies on big hits. Most dramatically, they found that, of the 1.23 million(!) albums available online, only 173,000 were ever purchased, meaning that fully 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

According to Mr. Bud:
“I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true...”
Gosh, that's never happened with a claimed "Revolutionary New Paradigm of Business Success!" before.

Oh, wait. Yes it has.

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