In chapter six of Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, the keywords seem to be aggregator and inventory. Beginning in 1982 with bookseller Richard Weatherford’s idea to create Interloc, an online database for used books across the country, the idea that technology could make business more convenient has since snowballed into global marketplace sites like Amazon. Anderson’s long tail conversation about niche markets and how there are always going to be consumers that want products, no matter how obscure and small those products may be, is based around the fact that the Internet has given consumers unlimited access and ability to search and consume small market products. An aggregator is defined by Anderson as a company or service that collects a huge variety of goods and makes them available and easy to find. Weatherford’s Interloc became Alibris and, as an aggregator for used books, rested in Anderson’s truth that the lower the costs of selling, the more you can sell.
Chapter six also discusses the five main types of business aggregators: physical goods (Amazon, eBay), digital goods (iTunes, iFilm), advertising/services (Google, Craigslist), information (Google, Wikipedia), and communities/user created content (Myspace, blogs). Some of these businesses are “pure digital” and strictly web-based like music download sites, but some are what Anderson refers to as “hybrid” meaning that the Internet aggregates the products and the consumers may receive something physical like goods or money after business has occurred.
There is a quick mention of a Best Buy scenario about digital cameras where the author compares the cost of shelf space in a brick and mortar establishment to that of Amazon’s warehouse. In Best Buy stores, someone must make a supply and demand guess when ordering a product to sell on the shelves and there is always a risk of ordering too much or too little. On Amazon, the argument is that there is an “Inventory on Demand” procedure, and, in my opinion, with the invention of the 3-D printer, this type of production is only going to become more attractive. According to Anderson, Amazon’s ideal form of “print on demand” procedure would include having all content in digital formats and only creating a physical product when a consumer purchased the item. Anderson concludes the chapter with the argument of “it’s about the experience” but still, this entire “end of inventory” discussion sends my mind into a thought that all the physical stores will die and instead I will send my measurements (maybe even using some type of high-tech body scanner…oooooo…) to a website and being able to order clothes tailored exactly to my body. Thinking of all the unbought $3 floral print t-shirts at Forever 21 ending up at a dump somewhere makes me think that this would be awesome simply due to the fact that it would reduce waste. (*Note: I don’t really know what happens to all of the un-sold merchandise from F2. I can only hope that they would donate all of those size two white fur vests and neon pink fishnet stockings to the homeless in America and the starving children in third world countries.)
Chapter seven continues on with Anderson discussing how the long tail is changing (or…tailoring) the tastes of the consumers. 😉 The author’s first example is Bonnie McKee, and Anderson highlights how sites like LAUNCHcast (now Spotify and Pandora) are constantly collecting research and data and finding out deep specifics of listeners: “Constantly taking the pulse of the culture.” The story with McKee was that the music was, in a way, tested with the audience of LAUNCHcast and the data was recorded and analyzed so that the actual release of McKee’s music could be targeted appropriately. (I think this is awesome, by the way.) The second example was that of My Chemical Romance (I like to personally refer to these guys as the modern emo version of Queen.) and though Anderson compares and contrasts their case with that of McKee’s, the take away is that MCR used the Internet to stir up already existing fans and in-turn have really great results with a new release.
Anderson drones on and on about collective intelligence, (which Convergence Culture’s Henry Jenkins would love), and explains what we all know about how filters serve as types of opinion leaders that help consumers navigate a wide arena of products. The thought that the internet amplifies the “word of mouth” is supported and then at the same time Anderson wants to make sure that we all realize that the long tail is subjective and we cannot quite compare the data from niches as much as we can the data from hits because it is comparing apples to oranges. After going through various charts and figures that are more for business folks than communicators like myself, it is clear that the Internet is changing our ability to demand and thus changing the marketplace and it seems that Anderson’s long tail phenomenon will continue to evolve until, like his last sentence states, “everything will make it to the market and the real opportunity will be in sorting it all out.”
Whew. I think that’s more than 300-500 words. 😦 Sorry!
If you have the urge to hate this blog for it’s extensive length, consider how much you hate Drake, and then grade me in comparison. 🙂 Hehe.