The Long Tail! — Quotidian — 022
(Transcript of video originally posted 22 Jan 2021)
This animal is called the Chippendale Mupp. It is featured in the famous Dr. Seuss stories. Well, it has got a unique speciality. It doesn’t have an alarm clock, and all that. It just has a very long tail. Just before going to bed, it will bite the end of its tail, and then go to bed. How will it wake up? It will wake up with an Ouch. Pain. The pain will travel from the end of the tail to its brain. Slowly. It has got such a long tail, you see! Or, thus goes the nonsense-story by Dr. Seuss. No, that is not the Long Tail that we are talking about, here, though! This one is a long tail of a different kind!
I grew up, listening to the amazing adventure stories of Tarzan, narrated by my Dad. Tarzan the Ape Man. The Jungle Man. Deep in the African jungle, a little boy found and nurtured by man-like Apes… A long and interesting story. I am a big big fan! Every time you get the first rank or win an award, I will get you a Tarzan book, my Dad said. Wanting to encourage me and make me perform. And I went for it, and I started, every year, Annual Day, I would get some award, and the next evening, he would take me to the Higginbothams Store in Chennai, and we will get a book. The problem is, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote 24 books and before I could collect them all, (I am a completionist — if I start something, I want to finish it to perfection)… before I could collect them all, they went out of print, they were not available in bookstores any more. I really struggled a lot.
After that, many many many years later, I finally bought the 25th book…
This is the 25th book — not even written by Edgar Rice Burroughs! Halfway into the writing of this book, he passed away! Lansdale finished writing the remainder of the book. How? Thanks to Kindle. Thanks to the World Of Digital. This is where the Long Tail that I was referring to, comes into its own.
The problem is, be they CDs, books, any music discs, games, they occupy space. And, if you talk to shopkeepers, they will say, this is the bestsellers area. If I keep a book here, it takes up one centimetre distance, one centimetre length! And I can’t keep another book, and so I will have to keep refreshing it. And, there are those buyers who look only at this and buy. People don’t even come and see anything else. There are these bestseller buyers. So, to appear here, takes a lot of push and politics and money and… why? Atoms take space and limited space is a problem. They can be music CDs, movie rentals, limited space.
Where did this phrase “The Long Tail” originate from? Well, if you look at popularity versus the number of unique products, there is this thing called the Head. Hugely popular books, hugely popular products. Then there is the kind of popular / sort of popular, here today, gone tomorrow, fashionable, trendy…. And then, capable of extending all the way till infinity, a very thin slice, low popularity, just like me, … that twenty-fourth book, some guy in America had it closeted somewhere in Idaho. I paid more for shipping than for the cost of the book. I had been such a maniacal collector! So, there are very few people who love it, but they would be ready to give an arm and a leg for it! There would be some who would say, “Take my life if you want, but I need that thing!” Goods that have this unique quality are said to be in the Long Tail domain.
You may remember Shark Tank. Do you know what is the best of the best on Shark Tank? Among all the products that have become famous because of Shark Tank? What is the most unique, unusual, and maximum money-making? You’ll be surprised! It is a Long Tail product! It is called Nerd Wax.
That is, you have to be a male. You have to be a male who wears spectacles. You have to be a male who wears spectacles and does work that typically draws sweat from you, and you must be in the habit of pushing the glasses with your finger up the bridge of your nose! If you are THAT Long Tail, that rarest of the rare, they have a product for you. Magical product. If only you apply a thin film of this wax on the sides of your nose where the spectacles rest, whatever shake you do of your head, however sweaty your face becomes, it won’t fall! So, those hardworking men, who wear glasses, they would be ready to pay a premium to get the product. And that’s how they made their money!
Think about Search Engines! There are search engine keywords like “dog”. Whoever searches for “dog”, there will be results. Many many results. Movies named “dog”, books named “dog”, people who sell “dog”, what “dog”? Indian dog breed? European dog breed?
And then, there would be people who would search for “guard dog”… That is a mildly more serious. But… if you really want to nail the answer, if you want to get what you are looking for in just the first page of Google Search, you would do something like…
“best breed of guard dog for families with children”. Wow! What a beautiful long tail! You are specifying it, you are narrowing it down, to extreme specifics. There won’t be many results. But the one or two results that come, will be simply amazing.
Did you know Coursera hosts courses with such unusual titles? Simply because Coursera doesn’t need to have a classroom and a teacher and limited seats in a physical environment, there are courses like these! A course called “The truth about cats and dogs”. Another that is about Intellectual Humility — the art of respecting the other person’s opinions! Long Tail.
The blessing of The Long Tail is, you have infinite storage, and you have instant search. And, this is the advice they give. So, dump it all out there. You have infinite shelf space after all. Lower the price drastically. And then, help me find it. Like I helped you just now by lowering my head! Make it easy for people to find it!
But, there is a little drawback hidden right there too. Don’t forget! Till now, as long as we had limited shelf space, consumers were like, “Let me just look at what’s being bought by most other people, and let me follow suit!” But today, because of this infinite shelf space, because everything is now available, the time has come for you to think through, individually, about the decisions and choices you need to make! It is infinitely customisable to suit your need, but do you know what you need? Thank you!