Chris Anderson Whipped by Long Tail

Says Ad Industry Actually Gets It

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Chris Anderson is his own worst enemy. The editor in chief of "Wired" and the author of "The Long Tail," the most-cited marketing book of the last two years not written by Malcolm Gladwell, was asked at the end of his keynote speech at the Radio Advertising Bureau conference in Atlanta which sector of the media industry was succeeding in making a business out of the long-tail, that niche-heavy part of the business where there are no major breadwinners and loaves for everyone.

"The curse of my own book is that my biggest competition is the long tail," he replied. "[I compete] with 1 million blogs and social networks and micro engagements." His own industry, the publishing world, has "not really figured how to do it yet," he said. "We can launch web properties that are successful but very expensive, we have not figured out how to scale it down to very narrow competition."

The TV networks aren't doing very well, either, and for similar reasons. "They don't scale down to narrow audiences," he said.

But guess who Mr. Anderson thinks has made a boon out of the long tail? The advertising industry, of course. "In a strange way, the advertising business is the best example of an industry going down the long tail and finding a lot of growth and stability down there, to the surprise of everybody."

But it's no surprise as to who Mr. Anderson thinks is leading the pack. "That Google model, recognizing there was a latent demand for small advertisers with a small narrowly targeted audience, and the ability for that to be monetizable" is what the ad community has been able to execute the best, he said. "Google recognizes that in part with pay-per-click, in part with very low-cost advertising and content sites with an acquisition method that's basically software-driven, it's allowed the little guys whose sales force are now approaching them."
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