The long tail concept

The long tail concept

A frequency distribution suggesting the relative variation in popularity of items selected by consumers.

The long tail concept is useful for considering the role of Product, Place, Price and Promotion online. The phenomenon now referred to as the 'long tail', following an article by Anderson (2004), was arguably first applied to human behaviour by George Kingsley Zipf, professor of linguistics at Harvard who observed the phenomenon in word usage (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipf%27s law). He found that if the variation in popularity of different words in a language is considered, there is a systematic pattern in the frequency of usage or popularity. Zipf's 'law' suggests that if a collection of items is ordered or ranked by popularity, the second item will have around half the popularity of the first one and the third item will have about a third of the popularity of the first one and so on. In general:

The kth item is 1/k the popularity of the first.

Look at Figure 5.4 which shows how the 'relative popularity' of items is predicted to decline according to Zipf's law from a maximum count of 1000 for the most popular item to 20 for the 50th item.

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