Friday, June 01, 2007

The Longer tail?

A restaurant business or being a successful writer?

Lately, so many people around me have been quitting their comfortable jobs with 7 figure salaries and perks to follow their uncertain adventures or, as they put it - their dreams. Makes me wonder - Do I really want to do what I do now for the rest of my life? Not sure. But I do know what I definitely want to do in my life before I cease to exist here.

Write a book and get it published.
Run a restaurant.

That's all. Easily said. Now all I need to do is, get to work and do them.

I work in one of the TOP MNCs in India. And typical to all MNCs is the bench concept - a time when you are supposed to work on enhancing your skills. So here I was scouting our library for any skill-enhancing books. I came across this book titled The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. A highly suggested book by one of my professors in IIM K, I decided to read for pleasure than to enhance my skills. And I did.

This book is an article beaten and stretched into 226 pages. You can easily read just the article The Long Tail that is quite famous and not miss anything. But the idea that Mr. Anderson conveys is so relevant in our internet driven world today that you would want to finish the book. Quite a page turner, this is.

A not so long something about The Long Tail

The concept of the long tail, drew in part from an influential February 2003 essay by Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality" that noted that a relative handful of weblogs have many links going into them but "the long tail" of millions of weblogs may have only a handful of links going into them. Anderson described the effects of the long tail on current and future business models.

Anderson argues that products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. Anderson cites earlier research by Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smith, who first used a log-linear curve on an XY graph to describe the relationship between Amazon sales and Amazon sales ranking and found a large proportion of's book sales come from obscure books that are not available in brick-and-mortar stores. The Long Tail is a potential market and, as the examples illustrate, the distribution and sales channel opportunities created by the Internet often enable businesses to tap into that market successfully.

An Amazon employee described the Long Tail as follows: "We sold more books today that didn't sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday."

After reading this book, whenever I hear about someone quitting to start on their own, all I can think is whether a Long tail is feasible in their business. Like Anderson points out here, what a Long tail definitely isn't, most of them don't fit into that category. But almost all internet related businesses fall in that category. For example, there's no limit to the number of songs/books/movies that can be provided to the public out there who seem to have an appetite to gobble up almost everything. True, there might not be many takers for an old and obscure song from your parents' teenage days, but by providing access to this song to anyone who might be interested, the revenue you get from it far outweighs your cost. In this case, your cost is almost nothing - another 2-3MB space on a server, which doesn't cost much for you when you have already invested in the server. And people are so different and insatiable, you cannot fail! There WILL be someone who would want that song.

Let's look at this blog. If you draw a graph with all the blogs in our blogosphere in the X axis and their daily traffic in the Y axis, mine would be somewhere at the far end of the long tail. But still there is a small number of people who consume this blog. And for them, it matters. And that's what makes the long tail successful.

So which has the longer tail? A restaurant or a successful book? Well, both of them can't have a very long tail by their very nature. Maybe I should write the book first and use the proceeds to start the restaurant. Or maybe I should start the restaurant first on all my savings and then write the book. I really don't care about the tail. All I want to do, is just do them both. So look out for me. And do me a favour by buying my book and bringing your family for a dinner at my restaurant :)


hope and love said...

great post..! me too wanna write a book..

Rinchen said...

When you do write that book, I expect an autographed copy from the celebrated author, okay girl?

Btw, you can post comments on my wordpress blog, cant you? I kinda liked wordpress and thinking of sticking with it :(

Anonymous said...

I prefer dinner at home but I'll drop by for breakfast on a Sunday as long as I can have

a. a plate of mini idlis, not 6 which is too less as they serve in Trichy and definitely not 14 like in Bangalore which kinda looks very cluttered on my plate... and you better ensure that its not raw mini idli which has been soaked in the sambhar jes minutes before..

b. a strong cup of filter coffee... NO BRU, SUNRISE or anything of THAT sort...old fashioned Yercaud coffee ground preferably in a hand grinding machine and then having just 10% of chicory content, boiled with hot water to give fresh dicocsion and mixed with Nandini toned milk ...and surely not in those 33 ml tumblers served in Bangalore's stand and eat joints. One always wants a good 150 ml of the same.

And yes, my grandpa has always taught me that the max speed of the tap in the wash basin in a restuarant (it should not splash so much that it wets my shirt) and the cleanliness of the underside of the cot in a hotel (they all clean the side on which we lie down but one always finds cobwebs underneath) are indicative of the quality of the place. Keep this in mind pls...

ps: I hope you will accept Sodexhos :-)

Girl With Big Eyes said...

ATB hope and love!

And sure Rinch! If I get a publisher for it, I definitely will send you a copy!

And Anon,
Points noted!
Are you a Capricon or just spoiled? :)
Btw, please introduce me to your grandpa. Would be a pleasure to meet him.

Rinchen said...

The specification of the max speed of the tap water in a restaurant is very insightful. I am amazed how its pure common sense but doesnt occur to most people at the same time!!!

VKM said... i have competition! :)
me already started on my book! :)

btw the MBTI test thing is not free :( was i expecting too much?

Girl With Big Eyes said...


Hmmm so you've already started. Way to go buddy. I'll take that as an inspiration. :)

Btw, have added a link to take the free MBTI test. Must be almost close to the real thing.

Rashmi said...


There is going to be a Blogcamp in India on 16th of June. Around 250 bloggers will be taking part in the event.

This is what they say on their blog: "The way unconferences work is that, you don't have an agenda, rather we will put up a white board, where participants will themselves add the topics they are interested to speak upon. Depending upon the number of speakers we will go for multiple threads. There will be some intense discussions, we will have a lot of fun and yes there will be blogging, video blogging, photo blogging, podcasting ... everything under the blogger sun."

The registrations have started. We are planning to have 250 participants from all over the country. There are some people taking part virtually, using youtube, slideshare, skype etc. if you are interested please add your name to the wiki.

Check the:
official blog:


rakuboy said...

sure will do amigo... wud be the first in line to buy ur book.. as for the restaurant, will come on the condition that u give me a huge order of biscuts, bread, cheese, cakes, milk & butter ;)