- [The long tail] is a shift from mass markets to niche markets, as electronic commerce aggregates and makes profitable what were previously unprofitable transactions.
How can people find content they want when it is buried far down the tail? Already, a number of mechanisms have emerged, based around user recommendations. Perhaps the best known is "collaborative filtering", in which purchase histories are analysed to work out what else is likely to interest the buyer of a particular product ("Customers who bought this item also bought...", as Amazon puts it). This approach allows users to navigate from hits that they know they like to more obscure titles further down the tail.
Many successful online businesses, such as Amazon, Rhapsody or the iTunes Music Store, already exploit the effects of the long tail. So too do other internet companies, such as Google (which makes money not just by selling adverts to big firms, but also by placing obscure adverts alongside obscure web pages) and eBay (which aggregates low levels of demand for obscure products to make a huge business).