Long Tail in Singapore

I love the idea of the Long Tail, popularised by Chris Anderson. It turns traditional mass marketing on its head and makes a case for the small guy selling all kinds of odd stuff that never made it to the headlines.

The basic premise? That we should not disdain ultra niche markets/ customers
longing for obscure and offbeat products and services if our pipelines are very long, cheap and reach extensively. We should also not be obsessed with producing big hits, but explore the recesses of back catalogs, yesterday's fashion, and things that have niche appeal.

There are three big lessons that the author has proposed:

Make everything available

Think that nobody would be interested in your 1965 coin collection from Cambodia? Think harder. The first rule of the game is that people are going for things increasingly niche, quirky and offbeat - what some call the market segment of one. With the Long Tail, businesses should look at making as wide a variety available to the broadest possible audiences in the most cost effective manner. Someday, somehow, somewhere, somebody's gonna come up to you and say "Smile! I am going to buy from you!"

Cut the price in half. Now lower it.

The main problem with selling everything the traditional way is that they make it way too expensive and unattractive for customers. Cinema tickets now cost almost $10 a piece. Music CDs are still priced at more than $20 even though you probably only like 1 or 2 tracks. Don't be caught by the tyranny of the blockbusters but instead let them have it all at "discount" prices. Bringing down costs and giving customers greater choice - the way iTunes has done it at 99 US cents per track - makes them more willing to buy.

Help me find it

Make it easy for your customers to locate back issues, that outdated ditty from the 70s, or that charming toy clown from old Chinatown. If they want anything from Jay Chou to Janet Jackson to even Jackson Five, you would have a way for them to locate it - quickly, efficiently and cheaply. This is the beauty of businesses like amazon.com, netflix, and iTunes.

Can we embrace it here?

Now think about the Singaporean context where variety sometimes isn't the spice of life. How often have you bemoaned the lack of interesting content on television, radio or publications? Many of us feel that everything that you watch, hear or read seem to be "been there, done that" boringly mainstream. A lot of our entertainment programmes have appeared to be copied from somewhere before.

With the advent of web 2.0 platforms like youtube, flickr, wikipedia and more, it is now possible to make everybody a producer of content. This may allow unique, unusual and uncommon citizen generated programmes to see the light of day. Now the only challenge is how we can put a price tag on such eclectic original content, and how it can be distributed cheaply to the fans of the anti-blockbuster. Any takers?