Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rejoice - the long tail is dead (atleast for now)

Between 2006 and 2010 there was this surge of excitement about the long tail because of which google became what it is today. In an earlier avataar (role - for the uninitiated) I built a company using the principles of harnessing the long tail by allowing people to take content from TV channels and indies to their own blogs and websites. The idea was that people knew what their audiences/readers wanted.  And  hence would take the appropriate video content and embed the widgets that streamed the videos on their blogs, which in turn would be relevant to the audience who would watch this content - paid for by the preroll video ads that would get dynamically inserted. 

Unfortunately the business had to slowly move away from the indie - long tail video content and start working with the mainstream video content coming from broadcasters and movie studios. 

Looking back from a vantage position today, I realize that the business I setup would have failed anyways because it was addressing a mass audience which was used to consuming whatever was popular. Hence the question - is long tail of content relevant? I think that the very notion of people consuming long tail of content is flawed and archaic with larger organisations, broadcasters and twitter and facebook and google and pretty much everyone else pushing the content that sells to the top of the display. It is a incestuous cycle which feeds on itself and does not allow the non standard to  surface at all.

So unless you have a business that harnesses and keeps the audience locked in, do not even try to get them to consume the content that you have by spraying across the net. However if you do have the audience locked into your service then be nice to them and personalise what you offer or suffer in the long run.

Please do let me know if anyone else has any suggestions that shows that there is indeed a business that can be built using the long tail model.


Sunil Nair

First published on the Coursera discussion forums on Understanding Media by Understanding Google by Prof. Owen R. Youngman

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