Phase 1: It’s a common misconception that books, movies, music, etc., just make it to the top 10, to the best sellers, to the “most popular” categories – one day you don’t see them there, the next day you do. It’s magic. Phase one of the Long Tail is making whatever you make, big: big audience, big profit, and big exposure. 50 Shades is a prime example, it is average price and a bestseller.
For the mass, one day it just showed up and they had to have it.
Phase 2: This is when a slight price reduction takes place. Most commonly found in the form of a sale, a discount, a sweepstake or giveaway. Phase two of the Long Tail is making it (perhaps 50 Shades of Gray) slightly more available. The goal is to reach an even larger audience that without the price reduction would have never been reached.
Phase 3: While phase two slightly expands the range of those who would purchase the product; phase three involves an even larger price drop. By now the production costs have been paid, the creator has profited, and the goal is to reach as many people as possible while still making profit – small profit, but profit nevertheless.
Phase 4: By now, one can cut production completely and put the product online for instant download in multiple formats. The last phase is to offer the work for free, to reach everyone (at least with internet access). The goal is to catch even more eyes on the work you have shipped while you are producing new work that starts back at phase one.
This is the progressive and profiting idea of the Long Tail that most people see.
The problem with cutting the Long Tail into phases, though, is the sociological impacts that are created as a result. At each phase, you make those who participated in the phase before it more uncomfortable. “Why do they get it cheaper.” “I should have waited until the price went down.” “Next time I’m just going to hold off until it’s free.” While this has significant effects, there is one in particular that needs to be noted.
This effect directs more of those who participate in the first phase, to dig deep for the interesting, the odd, and the most creative items that are at the end of the tail. After all, everything ends up there anyway, right? In the consumer’s mind, inaction creates price reduction. In the producers mind, inaction prevents them from ever getting a hold of the work. With the Long Tail, the consumers right.
Looking back at all of this, it seems that the Long Tail actually has a negative effect. At least, if you follow it from phase one, it does.
But, what if I told you that the Long Tail was meant to work in reverse, from phase four, from the end of it. That before 50 Shades found itself in phase one; the author had produced shorter creative work, gathering a tribe of followers.
The beauty of the Long Tail is that people are able to go up the tail in short phases. All with the start of a niche product and a small, but close tribe. For most, the box office movies, the best sellers, the “top 10,” were overnight successes. When really, they worked longer and harder than one can imagine to get there.
Stay Positive & A lot Comes From A Little
Garth E. Beyer