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Monday, July 10, 2006

The Long Tail

Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Tech mag Wired said this in The Guardian this morning,

the idea of the "paradox of choice", the argument that if presented
with an overload of different choices we will retreat to the familiar, is
outdated in a world where dozens of different filters and "tastemakers" help us
move seamlessly between the mainstream and the niche.

He is talking about a concept he calls the "long tail" where the democracy of the net makes a publisher out of anybody and nobodys. His thesis is used in the article to postulate on the impact on television, music and the film industry. But what of the impact on business media?

It seems pretty clear that the days of the dominant business trade weekly are over. Who needs to read their trade weekly when so much more information is available now, right now, on the screen in front of you? Go and check the paid circulation decline of trade magazines over the last few years. Their are no examples, at least none I can find, of any trade magazine with a significant paid sale throught the newstrade, increasing its sale in the last five years. None! Subscriptions are declining at a slower rate and more patchily because of inertia. But in newstrade sales, where readers must make a determined effort to buy their magazine the pattern is plain.

As the web develops there are increasing volumes of specialist places to go for business to business information. What is the fastest growing tech site in the US. CMPnet? IDGnet? Cnet? No, it's tomshardware. Its about motherboards, niche, specialist and awesome. Also, how many blogs are there in the UK on specialist business to business themes? I shall try and find out, but I am sure that there are more today than then there were yesterday.

The implication of all this is that there is a lengthening tail of activity in the b2b sector and this has important implications for b2b media companies. In days of yore new products were launched at trade shows and promoted through advertising and PR in trade mags. In days of yore music releases were launched on Top of the Pops, promoted through advertsing in Melody Maker and elsewhere. Today, well, think Arctic Monkeys. In business to business watch suppliers begin to by pass traditional media in business to business as they follow their audience into the long tail of web based b2b information.

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