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Notes from "The Long Tail"

I'm not done with the book "The Long Tail" yet, but I had to post some thoughts before I lost them. I just finished chapter 9, "The Short Head", which talks about the importance of focusing on the head of the long tail, but also some of the misconceptions. In fact, here's a list of key misconceptions from p.167 of the book, after which I will tell you my two ideas for applying long tail thinking to traditional bricks-n-mortar businesses.

    * Everyone wants to be a star
    * Everyone's in it for the money
    * If it isn't a hit, it's a miss
    * The only success is mass success
    * "Direct to video" = bad
    * "Self-published" = bad
    * "Independent" = "they couldn't get a deal"
    * Amateur = amateurish
    * Low-selling = low-quality
    * If it were good, it would be popular

So, that being said, here are my two ideas, which I offer freely, in hopes that someone will think... well, whatever, here they are, caveat emptor:

Idea #1: The Supermarket

So, this is somewhat like the Peapod approach, but a hybrid of it with the traditional store. I recently visited the new bloom supermarket for the first time -- it used to be Food Lion, but it's upgraded. They have handy little information kiosks throughout the store. What I thought was, why limit the kiosk to information? Consider this: an integrated online and in-store system where you can order food for pick-up or delivery. If you're in-store, perhaps you want to browse for other things, go haggle over cuts of meat, or whatever. Rather than spend a chunk of your time getting your other groceries, you should be able to place your order online or in-store for someone else to collect, and then while you go do your other shopping/browsing, it is all magically pulled together for you. AND... if they don't have what you're looking for in-store, they then should have an expanded catalog of items available, such as through warehouses or just-in-time, that you can order and pay for (again, online or in-store) and have either available for pick-up or delivery.

In other words, you make the long tail of grocery store products available, but not necessarily in-store. You combine immediate gratification on short head items with the availability of specialty items. And, because consumers generally seem to like the local store feel, this provides them a local outlet to take concerns, become recognized, etc.

To top it all off, there probably also social networking aspects that could be leveraged through the integrated online/kiosk system where customers can go back and add comments on the items they ordered -- particularly the specialty items -- in order to provide ratings and reviews. AND... let's not forget some sort of incentive... say a 5% off coupon, or even just a $5 coupon, for new reviews on items that have not met the minimum threshold of reviews (similar to how PriceGrabber.com does it).

Idea #2: The Movie Theater

Let's be honest: movies are often better when seen in a theater. The sound is usually better, the community experience can be enjoyable, the overpriced snacks taste better (because of the premium), and frankly, where else would I find a Nathan's hot dog cooked the way I would get it up in NYC? But how do we get niche markets into mainstream theaters? Sure, "art house" theaters have been serving a niche for ages, but how do we get beyond this? Here's the idea:

My local theater already has a ticket kiosk system. Expand and integrate that system with online and add a new dimension: viewer requests. The movie theater company can list a wide range of films available to them. They'll know the minimum cost to them, per location (or maybe could do it per region), which should allow them to then deduce a minimum head count required. Then allow people to request and/or vote for indie films to be played on, say, the two smallest screens during a weeknight at a specific slots time (like 8 or 9). I'm guessing mid-week weeknights could skip a trailing off blockbuster showing or two.

Ultimately, it comes down to understanding your local economics very well and then using social networking to drive demand. Find some niches and get a good rep going for showing a wider variety of films that are customer-selected. Instead of force-feeding us garbage "blockbusters" that will never make their money back, pursue lower cost movies that may draw a smaller crowd, but that are tailored to a specific group of highly appreciative fans.

Especially in a major metropolitan/suburban area, I don't think there's any reason big-name theaters should not be doing this already on a regular basis anyway. This idea just expands on the concept by allowing it to be driven by social networking.

fwiw. no guarantees! :)


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» The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson from The Falcon's View
I've just finished reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. It's an excellent book, relatively straight-forward read, and really hits on the benefits that the Digital Information Age brings with it. I've written about it previously (here and here). I... [Read More]

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