The Long Tail is Getting Longer

Long Tail

The Long Tail is a concept, first coined by Chris Anderson in a 2004 article in Wired, that talks about how the Internet is changing the media marketplace.   Traditionally, markets have been dominated by a few bestselling products – the publishing industry is dominated by a few bestselling authors, the Billboard “Top 40” hits account for the majority of the music sales and “new release” movies account for  most of the revenue in a video rental store.  Business managers and Economists often use the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle to describe this heavy concentration of products sells.  Basically, the most popular 20% of the products are purchased by 80% or the majority of the consumers.

Why is this so?  The answer lies in the economics of supply and demand and the cost of shelf space.  An average movie theater will not show a movie unless it can attract at least 1500 people over a two week period.  An average record store must sell at least two copies of every CD per year to cover the cost of the shelf space.  And so on and so on for videogame stores, movie rental shops, bookstores and newsstands.  To pay for the physical display space, a retailer can only afford to stock those products that are guaranteed to sell.

How is the Internet changing this marketplace?  By offering consumers choices that can be made available because they do not require shelf space.  They are digital.  With online retailers such as Amazon, iTunes, Rhapsody, and Netflix, consumers are able to search through millions of titles, far past what is available at the local Blockbuster Video or Barnes and Noble.  And the more they find they more they like.  These online retailers are discovering that millions of songs, movies and books sold by less popular artists can be profitable.  These sales, down the long tail of the Pareto curve, may actually be more profitable, combined, than the sales of popular titles.  Thus the phenomenon of the “Long Tail”.

But how is the Tail getting longer?  As the Internet markets provide consumers with better search tools, browsing tools and recommendation systems, more products will become visible to the consumers increasing the size of the long tail.  Combine that with more sophisticated searching skills by the consumers and you have a long tail reaching to infinity.  In a 2006 working paper titled “Goodbye Pareto Principle, Hello Long Tail”, Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Duncan Simester found that, “by greatly lowering search costs, information technology in general and Internet markets in particular could substantially increase the collective share of hard-to-find products, thereby creating a longer tail in the distribution of sales” (source: Wiki).

As companies invest in more sophisticated information technologies and consumers become sophisticated information searchers, customers will be able to discover more products than they would have otherwise considered.  As the Long Tail phenomenon grows, Brynjolfsson, Hu, and Simester speculate that “the balance of power will continue to shift from a few best-selling products to niche products that are previously difficult to be discovered by consumers. This Long Tail phenomenon will have a profound impact on a firm’s product development strategy, operations strategy, and marketing strategy.”  In the future, to be profitable, a company will have to focus on the whole tail.


The Growth of iPhone Development

iPhoneThe iPhone has changed the landscape of application development. With over 100,000 apps available on the iPhone generating over $1 billion in revenue , it should come as no surprise that Apple’s App Store is big business (source: Apple). According to Gregg Weiss, founder of iPhoneAppsQuotes, “With the iPhone app market growing daily, developers have noticed the trend and are shifting focus to the mobile app market.” According to a recent survey, most developers experienced a 39% average growth in business from adding mobile application development to their portfolio. Respondents, who recently added app development as a service, said 34% of their entire business is now iPhone development (source: Atlanta Business).

Important to an iPhone developer is his toolbox of development resources. Noted below are some links to sites that can aid in the development process:

  • General iPhone Web Page best practices

  • Working with the viewport

  • CSS for good iPhone Web pages

  • The WebKit and using it’s features for iPhone Web apps

  • The iUI

Keywords – The Phrase that Pays

This week, David Felfoli with Sherpa Web Studios spoke on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the importance of keywords.  He used the term “the phrase that pays” which really resonated with me.

The key to SEO is the keyword(s) – no pun intended.  Search Engines such as Yahoo, Google and Bing employ “robots” or “spiders” to crawl through the billions of pages of web sites to identify sites and include them in their databases.  These robots or spiders are software programs with proprietary ranking algorithms that search for text or keywords to analyze, index, rank and catalog.  They search and analyze both the visible text and the invisible text including the web site’s content, the HTML page title, meta tags, the text inside your links and the navigation text that tells your visitors how to use your site.

Find the phrase that paysHow do you select keywords? Find that phrase that pays? With industry knowledge and a deep understanding of the message your web site is conveying, you need to select some generic keywords that describe your site.  You can research, validate and augment this list with a keyword tool such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.  Additionally, you look at Pay per Click information using Google’s Search Based Keyword Tool.  Once you have found “the phrase that pays”, you can strategically place these words, with reasonable repetition, in both visible and invisible locations.

The most important component of your SEO campaign is your web site’s content.  It must be compelling, clear, focused and directed to your visitors. Purposefully including your keywords in your content is the first step in web site optimization and will provide you with the most return since content driven keywords are favored by search engine algorithms. According to David, frequently using your keywords is best.  Known as keyword density, this will improve your ranking with search engines.  Second, make sure you use your keywords in the first 200 words.  This is known as keyword placement.

The second step involves strategic placement of keywords in the HTML page title, the Hx tags and the meta description tag.  Not only are these elements indexed by the search engine crawlers, but they are also displayed on the results page of a user initiated search.  The most important of these is the HTML page title since it gets top billing on the results page. It should be succinct, compelling and keyword rich while accurately summarizing the page content.  The meta description tag may or may not be displayed.  However, it should be treated like the page title and be compelling, unique for every page and include your keywords.

And finally, the third step involves populating the meta keywords tag with keywords and variations of the keywords, such as misspellings, that wouldn’t be appropriate for the content, HTML page title or meta description tag. However, search engines are aware that this component has been misused and can be overpopulated or “stuffed” with unrelated words, so the meta keywords tag doesn’t carry as much weight with search engine algorithms.

In summary, careful keyword selection is the key to effective SEO.  Once you have found “the phrase that pays”, you can use good SEO methods and strategically place it throughout your website, in both the visible and invisible locations.

Findability – No Longer a Needle in a Haystack


Have you ever searched the Internet for that elusive site that you knew must be there?  It is often like searching for that proverbial needle in a haystack.  How can you ensure that a website is found?  By applying the principles of findability.

Peter Morville first coined the term “findability” in the article, Age of Findability (2002), as “designing systems that help people find what they need.” He expanded this definition in his book, Ambient Findability (2005), as “the ability of users to identify an appropriate website and navigate the pages of the site to discover and retrieve relevant information resources.” (Source: Wiki).

Findability is a holistic approach that encompasses information architecture (the discipline of structure and navigation), usability, website design and development, accessibility and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Applied to websites, e-commerce portals and intranets, findability is both an art and a science that improves the ability of a site being found.  Although good SEO is critical in findability, Information Architects, web designers, developers and content writers all contribute to the findability of site.

Why is findability important?  The Internet has potential for communication with billions of accessible websites.  However, if a site cannot be found, the potential information is lost.  In fact, it might as well not even be there.  Findability bridges this gab between raw Internet accessibility and actual information communication. It no longer becomes an exercise of finding the needle in the haystack.

For further information concerning Findability, check out these sources: