Accessibility is a daily norm and I think I might be taking it for granted.

It had never really occurred to me that before digital files, DVD’s and even VHS, if you missed an episode of your favourite TV show you had no control as to when you could view it again. Now, It is so simple and cheap to access media and there is no limit to the supply that you can access. This, of course, is a result of the Internet. With zero to low cost of entry, no quality filter, no cost to the user, no risk and no economies of scale the Internet is a platform with built in abundance and it is this abundance that has created a very long tail.

Legacy Media operates on a hit-driven model, which is basically the concept of the blockbuster. Companies like Disney need to make huge hits in order to draw in huge crowds and make big bucks. They provide you with a handful of flicks that appeal to a wide audience and they can only be viewed (legally) in the physical space of the cinema or months later when they are released onto DVD. To the Legacy Media industry a mass-market will always trump a niche market. However, thanks to the nets ability for abundance, niche markets are in, and mass markets are on the way out. Aggregators, like Netflix for example, don’t have to succumb to the tyranny of physical space. Netflix does not have to worry about appealing to a wider audience (Anderson, 2004). They have the ability to appeal to the individual, because there are billions of them. This stream of niche markets is what is known as the Long Tail.

Netflix Warehouse vs Blockbuster store

Netflix Warehouse vs Blockbuster store

A typical movie store, say Blockbuster for example, has about 3000 movie titles in stock. Netflix has 40 000. If you apply the 80-20 rule to this scenario only around 600 movies make up 80% of Blockbuster’s sales. The 3000th title may only sell once or twice a month, meaning that if they did stock a 3001st title it probably wouldn’t sell at all. This shortens the tail and only adds up to 20% of sales. This is the tyranny of physical space and it is why Legacy Media cannot cater to niche markets. However, if you keep extending the tail from 3001 through to 40 000 and all these titles only sell a few times it ends up adding up to a lot more sales. For aggregates, like Netflix, the end of the tail contributes to 50% of overall sales rather than a measly 20% (Holter, 2006).


Thanks to the Long Tail, we can access amazing and unique media content. Like this…


Anderson, C. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired, 12.10

Holter, E 2006‘Examples of the Long Tail Effect’ Newfangled




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4 responses to “BlockBusted.

  1. A few weeks ago I walked into Network Video (a video store) and it felt like such a strange and isolated place. I haven’t been to video store for years and the whole concept seems so prehistoric. I personally love the convenience of being able to access millions of films right at my fingertips and am happy to say that I have become a victim of the long tail effect. Like Amazon, iTunes has over powered music stores and video stores due to its infinite shelf space. This blog offers some great examples of the Long tails effect in the music industry..

  2. I like how you discuss the different parts of the distribution curve (20:80) appealing to different markets. Many people assume that with the expansion of the niche market through the internet, the old legacy media system of production and publishing disappear. Instead I think they work together servicing the different needs of the market. There will always be blockbusters produced and the expansion of the niche market will continue expanding the distribution curve. Companies will need to devise different methods to service the different markets. That is why you have the niche market accessed on the internet and the blockbusters accessed in shops, because as you mentioned there’s just not enough physical space to stock the billion movie titles or books on the niche market. The New York Times’ David Carr emphasizes the need for there to be different outlets in which people are able to access books ( Both methods still generate money for the respective companies and everyone is able to have access to their separate interests. I think it’s a win win situation.

  3. I really like your insight into the quality filter issue. It is very similar to the issues that music producers are having at the moment. On one side you have the traditionalists who prefer to access their samples by sampling old vinyl records in the traditional manner. On the other side you have young, technologically savvy producers who are buying all their samples from online sample websites such as With little (SoundCloud charges for premium access) to no entry costs producers can upload their latest works regardless of the quality. I consider this to be both a good and bad consequence. On one side you have endless creative potential. On the other, the Internet is full of ‘half baked’ productions, which makes it even more exciting when you come across a quality unknown artist.

  4. When my sister wants to watch a movie, she always asks me if I want to go and hire a movie from a video shop. My answer is always the same: “Why?” She isn’t very technologically informed and doesn’t know the amount of opportunities that lie in the niche markets online. There is definitely not many people using video shops anymore.
    I am very greatful for the Long Tail in allowing us to access unique media content like in the examples you pictured, they look fantastic!

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