The Long Tail Principle

Dear Chris Anderson,

You describe your blog, The Long Tail, as A public diary on the way to a book. I’m not sure you’re shooting high enough. Your fundamental idea is mind-blowing. I’m sure your book would have a similar impact to some others that capture a truth that we just weren’t seeing. For example there’s Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. Another for me is Steve Krug’s book on Website design Don’t Make Me Think. In each case, the title almost says it all.

Indeed most of us business types don’t have time to read books. Of course some books contain lots of checklists and useful tools for improved performance. They can be handy. You know the type of thing I mean, Business Strategy for Dummies, and others with provocative titles like that. However what you’ve shone a search light on is much more basic than that. I think it deserves to be a Principle. That’s something that when you hear it confirms a basic truth.

You’d join a very select crowd. One of the earliest of course was Archimedes’ principle. I believe he also came up with the Lever Principle.

Since then from time to time, great minds have come up with some pretty earth-shaking truths. Early ones were Huygens’ Principle, Bernoulli’s Principle and the Fermat Principle. More recently some principles have become pretty complex dealing with some of the fundamentals of physics. So there’s been the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the Pauli Exclusion Principle and Bell’s Inequality Principle. There’s even one called The Principle Of Least Action although that’s tougher than it sounds.

Thankfully the word Principle is still used by us normal mortals. So we have the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Principle, the NIMBY Principle and the SNAFU Principle. We’re even seeing some pleasing alliteration coming into play with the Peter Principle, the Pigeonhole Principle and most importantly the Precautionary Principle.

The latter is important in the present context. It states:
If one is embarking on something new, one should think very carefully about whether it is safe or not, and should not go ahead until reasonably convinced it is. It is just common sense.

It seems to me, Mr. Anderson, that your finding is much more apt than another Principle that is often quoted. That’s the misnamed Pareto Principle. Mass markets are less and less common and that old 80/20 rule may seriously delude modern marketers. The Long Tail concept is bigger than a book. It deserves to be promoted to be a Principle. So I say go for it, the Anderson Principle has a nice ring to it.

Respectfully submitted.

B.W.

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