Great posting on what the long tail is not.
Invoking the Long Tail is not a magic wand to explain away the apparent lack of demand for what you've got.
The Long Tail is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for poor-selling product. Or weak sectors. Or bad ideas.
- For Long Tail effects to work, you need both a head of relatively few hits and a tail of many niches, so that recommendations and other filters can lead consumers from one to the other.
- A tail without a head is too noisy and apparently random to get consumer traction; people need to start with the familiar and then move, via trusted recommendations, to the unfamiliar.
- Likewise a head without a tail is too limited in choice; the odds of finding a niche you want are too low to bother exploring much beyond what you already know.
Thus the two big Long Tail opportunities are:
- Aggregating hits and niches into a one big curve, from head to tail.
- Creating content and products that can plug into someone else's aggregated curve.