This week I looked at the transition from the hit driven model of legacy media to the aggregation of niche markets online. Traditionally, business have been business and needed to make money to exist, this meant that physical stores, whether they were book stores, film stores, music stores, etc. needed to pick and choose the products they sold in order to fit it within the physical limitation of the store. Generally stores stuck to the top 20% of their particular market. Now that the internet, the cloud and networking is becoming more prominent, online stores are thriving. How? A combination of essentially no physical space limitations, global access and the ability to sell whatever anyone wants. If your store holds practically anything and almost anyone can buy from you, your store will provide not only the top 20% of the market content but all the other things that consumers really want because you can’t get it elsewhere. This phenomenon of “the other things” being sold at great abundance and success is known as The long tail effect.
So Many Books, So Little Access Limitations
An excellent example of niche markets rising in popularity can be seen in self publishing books. As Rita Rosenkranz said, “because of the stigma of self-publishing very good stuff was locked out by mainstream publishers.” this meant that business having to pick and choose what will sell and what won’t meant that not well known books were ignored and the popular books became more popular. This is no longer the case. Online stores such as Amazon have allowed authors to publish their own books for next to no cost so anyone can publish their own works and all these works are available to buy because there is no space restriction. In one year sales have risen dramatically due to consumers buying cheap, self published books and discovering new interests and new authors.
Globalizing Media Industries
The long tail effect doesn’t just benefit online companies, it’s great for consumers as well. Personally, I like watching Japanese Anime and Dramas, I listen to a lot of foreign and independent music and watch a lot of independent films, so an industry market where only ‘the hits’ are available to buy would be distressing. Fortunately, The internet is global and not subject to national limitations as well as experiencing the long tail effect. Consumers such as myself are able to get the content we want that isn’t normally available.
The cost of products is heavily influenced by supply and demand, because digital media can be mass produced and distributed online without physical materials it can be sold very cheaply especially when compared to niche products that a traditional store may hold a very limited number of copies in stock.
The Battle Of The Old And The Online
There is some resistance from traditional business’ in the media industry against online markets that stems from the idea that if a product can be copied infinitely it is practically worthless. There are ways around this though, making products more unique, a necessity or (Controversially) incomplete, such as early release video games and software. Hopefully as online stores report increasing sales, the resistance will lessen and consumers will have more freedom to access the content we want with relative ease for the producers.
Featured image: http://online-social-networking.com/images/the-long-tail.gif