LIS 7401 Carol Rain Hagy April 23, 2009 the long tail
What are we talking about? the long tail the long tail Chris Anderson, in his 2004 Wired Magazine article, defined a new economic model. The internet has changed our marketplace.
Traditional Thinking Pareto’s Principle (80/20 rule) hit-driven economics mainstream tastes products must “earn their keep” local supply and demand
Graph taken from Flickr user b_d_solis, under a CC license . The original can be found here and the original poster does not endorse me or my work.
the long tail There is clearly a demand for “unpopular” titles. The CEO of Ecast, a digital jukebox company, says 99% of the top 10,000 tracks sell every month (qtd. in Anderson, Wired).
What makes these kinds of stores and services able to do this? Well, traditional stores (and other outlets like movie theaters and radio stations) need:
local shoppers or audience
to fit into 24-hour-a-day programming
to earn enough money to maintain local store
the long tail
the long tail But when a business operates online, it can avoid:
paying rent for as many places
needing space for browsable shelves
(sometimes) paying manufacturing costs
(sometimes) paying distribution fees
This changes our entire culture. Suddenly, popularity ≠ profitability “misses” = hits the long tail
This is “the long tail.” How does this apply to libraries? the long tail
Some say libraries are the original long tail.
Our research libraries have deep historical collections.
We offer a wide-reaching world of resources through Interlibrary Loan.
We can get you that article in pdf form in hours.
We wouldn’t be around if all we offered were Twilight and John Grisham.
We were saying “Hey, if you liked A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, you might like A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin” long before Amazon invented an algorithm to do it.
the long tail
We have competition in some of these areas now, but we should not panic. Nor should we smugly assume we’ve got it figured out, of course. the long tail
We need to be aware of the long tail and its power. the long tail
the long tail needs filters, sorters, and organizers
remember the niche markets
keep an eye on internet-based stores and services
Libraries suffer from the same physical constraints as traditional stores and services. the long tail
One lesson: Aggregate supply and demand. aggregate, v. (ægrget) [f. aggregate a. Cf. mod.Fr. agréger.] 1. trans. To gather into one whole or mass; to collect together, assemble; to mass. “Aggregate.” The Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989. OED Online. 2009. Oxford UP. 23 Apr. 2009 http://dictionary.oed.com
We aggregate supply with services like Interlibrary Loan. We have to keep figuring out ways to gather resources and make them accessible. the long tail
We pull together demand by consolidating library web presences. the long tail
Google Books Search
Our culture is going through exciting changes and our libraries are, of course, growing too. Studying the long tail offers us some guidance and direction. the long tail
Want to Learn More? Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired 12.10 (Oct. 2004). 22 Apr. 2009 http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail Blog. 22 Apr. 2009 http://longtail.typepad.com/ Dempsey, Lorcan. “Libraries and the Long Tail: Some Thoughts About Libraries in a Network Age.” D-Lib Magazine 12.4 (April 2006). 22 Apr. 2009 http://www.dlib.org/dlib/april06/dempsey/04dempsey.html Mossman, Katherine. “Serving the Niche: Viewing Libraries Through Chris Anderson’s ‘Long Tail’ Lens.” Library Journal 1 July 2006: 38-40. 15 July 2006. 22 Apr. 2009 http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6349032.html Cats: Percival Gray Walters and Tristan Cole Walters. Photos: Carol Rain Hagy and Nathan Walters.