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Long Tail As A Strategy

        posted by , June 01, 2013

What Is A Long Tail?

A long tail is the type of thing that gets statisticians excited.

It's a distribution of numbers that looks like this:

long tail statistics
The reason statisticians get so excited about long tails is that they frequently occur in the real world.

Long tails are of interest to business strategists because they can be used to model how firms complete with crowds.


Organizations vs. Crowds

A competitive battle between organizations and crowds can be modeled with a long tail distribution.

Large organizations produce a great deal more value than individuals. For example, a media organization such as the New York Times produces far more content than any individual blogger.

organizations vs crowds

Each organization produces more value than any individual. However, the long tail is so long that it potentially adds up to more value. In other words, a crowd can compete with an organization.

long tail

The competitive potential of crowds is clear to see in social media. When individuals contribute to a common cause such as Wikipedia they can easily beat an encyclopedia produced by a single organization.


Examples of Long Tail Strategies

A long tail strategy is any strategy that leverages the work of crowds of individuals to create things. Examples include:

  • Open Source
    A method for producing software and technology that allows anyone to add value.

  • Creative Commons
    A method for creating art, design, knowledge, information and entertainment that allows anyone to add value.

  • Social Media
    Tools for creating and sharing media.

  • Peer-to-peer
    Crowd driven networks.

  • Crowdsourcing
    Outsourcing work to a crowd.

  • Crowdfunding
    Raising funds using small contributions from a large crowd.

  • Microwork
    Outsourcing small parcels of work to individuals.

  • Citizen Science
    Crowd based research projects.

  • Virtual Economies
    Crowds that set up their own economic systems in virtual worlds.



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