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.
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…