The “Other” Long Tail

A room full of ideas for The Travel Channel – what’s it worth?

There has been a lot of talk about ‘the long tail’ and the Internet.

Chris Anderson’s book has proven something of a talisman to those of us in the Internet business.  The concept is fairly simple: while Tower Records can only stock a fixed number of CDs, (for example), and are thus limited by the physicality of space to only carrying a few titles, the web (iTunes, for example) can carry all music all the time forever.

So, while a customer in the store might buy the top ten albums, and Tower, while they were in business might sell vast volumes of those top albums, there was no one who carried, say The Best of Leo Kottke.  The demand was not there.

That is not to say that there was no demand for  The Best of Leo Kottke, it just was not enough to warrant the shelf space in the store.  You might sell 1,000 Kanye West in a week, but only 1 Leo Kottke in a month.

But, when the music is stored online and does not cost anything to carry, and you can carry infinte amouts of product forever, even 1 Leo Kottke a month adds up… along with all the other 1 per month (or even 1 per year) purchases.

Thus was the demand side of the equation altered by the Web and The Long Tail.

But what about the Supply Side?

What about the making of the content?

When television was expensive to make (crews, cameras, edits, producers), the same limitations on volume that once constricted Tower Records also constricted the production of content.

How many time have I sat in a pitch session with executives from a network pitching concept after concept….and in the back of their minds (and everyone else’s) is the constraint of ‘what will it cost to produce this… what is the prosective audience – what is the cost/risk ratio? and is it worth it?)

Just as the long tail now changes the basic economics of shelf stock and fulfilling demand, a second, technology driven revolution is going to change the economics and thinking of creation and supply of content.


(I was going to call it SUPPLY SIDE ECONOMICS, but that one had already been taken).

Now, the act of making content does not cost anything – except the creators time and creativity. There is no limit to creative shelf space – no need for endless written pitches and treatments.

You have an idea?

Here is a camera.

Here is a laptop.

There is the door.

And when you get done… here is website where you can show this stuff off.

Maybe only one person likes it  – so you’re kind of the Leo Kottke of web video.

Or mabye a million people like it, in which case, you’re the Kanye West of the new TV.

The Long Tail.

Of creation.

Go ahead – take a crack at it.

What have you got to lose?

After all, how many written treatments and budgets and pitch sessions and development deals did Kanye West go through before he just started doing his thing?

Ummmm…. none?


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