What Amazon teaches us about the long tail market for content discovery
Peter Sweeney
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As you know, Pete, I’m a big believer in the points you make here. I even think the tendency towards the popular is having a detrimental impact on our lives. For example, I’m convinced that the prevalence of the use of data analytics over sets of data about customer purchases is causing a reduction in the variety of products available in stores such as large supermarket chains. As a result of an analysis, they stop stocking long-tail products that most people don’t buy. What’s left is a smaller set of the common products. They run the analysis again and lop off another set of what are now the long-tail products, and as a result there’s even less variety. I’m amazed that in large superstores they often have vast amounts of a single product or small number of products. Come on, isn’t there room for more personalization based on a breadth of products that people buy, even if only occasionally? I worry that one day I’ll go into the store and there will be just one brand of toothpaste for sale — the most popular brand of all. But there will be thousands of them on the shelf. Forgetting the volume, in terms of product variety alone, it’ll effectively be like European Europe during the Soviet era in terms of choice. It’s driving me to go to niche stores for many products (requiring extra trips) and to use the big stores only for basic items. I think we need more balance across retail between popular products and long-tail products. It seems that music services like Spotify actually do support the long-tail. They pride themselves on providing music you might have never heard before but that matches your unique musical interests. I’m not sure why that same approach can’t be applied elsewhere. Maybe your post will play some part in getting this issue more visibility. Thanks!

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