Businesses should embrace the 'long tail' model - Internet World 2007
By Maggie Holland
Posted on 2 May 2007 at 16:42
According to the chief executive of cheapflights.co.uk, businesses need to start broadening their horizons and offering customers more choice, even if the products are considered lower value.
David Soskin believes that the traditional space restrictions of bricks and mortar shops don't apply in the new online world, so offering the products that minorities want will add value collectively.
Speaking during his keynote speech entitled 'Understanding the long tail. Why small customers are vital to web success' at Internet World this week, Soskin cited the parallels between the old world and the new. For example, he said that the average Blockbusters store can only hold about three thousand DVDs, whereas the online rent-a-movie empire Netflix offers customers the choice of 55,000 different films.
Likewise, Soskin used the example of the traditional Encyclopaedia Britannica, which contains some 65,000 articles that is simply no match for the seven million-plus articles Wikipedia holds.
Referencing a book by Chris Anderson called The Long Tail, Soskin said: 'Let me reduce that into a more Anglo Saxon format, which is basically crap versus choice.
'In the old economy, crap really mattered as things were always constrained by space. People didn't want crap in the shop as it didn't sell. [Retailers] always wanted to produce the things that sold to a major audience as they didn't want the minority audiences. With the new economy it's that choice that's key. That's extremely liberating.'
Cheapflights.co.uk, which boasts five million unique users a month has recognised this need to provide more niche offerings and partnered with smaller players.
'Before [the Web] it was a case of visiting a travel agent in a lunch hour of leaping through newspapers trying to find a deal,' said Soskin.
'Travel is a natural subject for the long tail...Traditional media was very much orientated towards very large companies who can afford to advertise on a very big scale.
'Of course, we work with major companies, we love them and they pay most of our bills but we also work with small companies. No other search company works with this very long tail or search advertisers such as Balkan Holidays.
'The Balkans is a very confusing place so do you want to speak to a generalist or someone who lives and breathes that? We provide an opportunity for small companies to advertise very democratically, very equally alongside the big companies.'
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