Editor in Chief, Wired magazine; Author, "The Long Tail"
Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine wrote The Long Tail , which first appeared in Wired in October 2004 and will become a book, published by Hyperion , in early 2006.
The Long Tail is about how our economy and culture is shifting from mass markets to million of niches. The term refers to the yellow part of the sales chart at left, which shows a standard demand curve that could apply to any industry, from entertainment to hard goods. The vertical axis is sales; the horizontal is products. The red part of the curve is the "hits", which have dominated our markets and culture for most of the last century. The yellow part is the non-hits, or niches, which is where the new growth will come.
The article (and the forthcoming book) is about the effect of the technologies that have made it easier for consumers to find and buy niche products, thanks to the "infinite shelf-space effect"--the new distribution mechanisms, from digital downloading to peer-to-peer markets , that break through the bottlenecks of broadcast and traditional bricks and mortar retail.
The two big points of the Long Tail theory are these:
1) The yellow part potentially extends forever to the right
2) The area under that line--the aggregate market of niches it represents--may become as big as the hits at the left.
The Wikipedia entry on the Long Tail does an excellent job of expanding on this. The shift from hits to niches is a rich seam, manifest in all sorts of surprising places.
Chris lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and four small children. Prior to taking over Wired in mid-2001, he was with The Economist for seven years in London, Hong Kong and New York in various positions, ranging from Technology Editor to U.S. Business Editor. His background is in science, starting with studying physics and doing research at Los Alamos and culiminating in six years at the two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, before moving to The Economist.