I posted a while back about the Meaty Middle, and why it was more important than the Long Tail for the application I’m involved with called RMX Direct. The reasoning is that for an advertising application, websites in the meaty middle or the top part of the Long Tail provide way more business than us than all the very small sites and blogs down the Long Tail.
Sure, we want small quality sites as well, but if we get a client that does 10 million ad impressions a day, that’s 10,000 small sites or blogs doing 1000 impressions a day. Even with a product that’s easy to support and an automated signup and sales process, the one larger client will not cause the same amount of work as 10,000 small ones.
Does this mean the Long Tail concept is dead like he says? Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I think the same reasons Amazon, iTunes, and other similar businesses have been able to prosper against their offline rivals is due to their ability to serve the Long Tail thanks to technology and the web. Although, I am quite curious to see data on what percentage of their sales are really attributed to the Long Tail, or if the Meaty Middle and the thick part of the curve are really providing the bulk of their business.
Fred Wilson theorized that the largest sites on the web were losing ground to the Long Tail, but Compete.com posts that their data shows the opposite to be true. Got Ads uses this as data against the Long Tail, but as the Compete blog says if you take out the rise of the two social networking giants then it’s basically a wash between 2001 and 2006. And, as one commenter said on the Got Ads post, some of the top 10 sites are really sites that aggregate the Long Tail or make it searchable.
I’d summarize by saying I’d disagree the Long Tail is totally dead, but that business models need to be wise about what they’re going after and whether that really should be the Long Tail, or if they should be moving up the curve.