An entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries is emerging, observes Chris Anderson in his 2004 Wired magazine article, “The Long Tail.”
Most of us, Anderson states, want more than just the #1 movie at the box office, the #1 song on the Billboard chart and the #1 book on the New York Times bestseller list.
We know we want more than the mainstream fare, and we know that today, we can get it.
That’s why the most successful online entertainment providers are making just as much money from niche purchases as they are from mainstream “hits.”
These online purveyors are combining infinite shelf space and unlimited selection with real time information about buying trends and public opinion. These entertainment websites attract people with their prominent mainstream offerings, and then keep them clicking with the obscure.
They use recommendations – generated by either human editors or genre databases – to drive demand deeper into their huge catalogs.
“Everyone’s taste departs from mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we’re drawn to them,” Anderson says.
So the answer to a successful entertainment website seems to boil down to one main factor – “more.” More choices. More information. More options.
Make everything available, Anderson recommends. “Almost anything is worth offering on the off chance it will find a buyer.”
So how might this apply to entertainment information? On a national scale, “more” does seem to make sense. I’m a huge fan of IMDB (The Internet Movie Database), and Rotten Tomatoes, a movie review aggregator. No matter which actor or movie I’m interested in, I can find information about him or her or the movie at IMDB. A few months ago, I watched the 2005 movie “The Island” starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. I enjoyed the movie and its whole “Logan’s Run” vibe, but I had heard it was panned by the critics during its theatrical release. So I went to Rotten Tomatoes and could read more than a dozen archived critics’ reviews.
But I’m eager to know if, on a local scale, an entertainment information website can successfully pander to the niches. Although the reach of the Internet is limitless, the subject matter of a local entertainment site is limited to a geographic area. For example, ctnow.com covers only Connecticut. Metromix.com covers only the Chicago area. SouthFlorida.com covers only the Fort Lauderdale area.
If information is a commodity and niches are where the money is, can local entertainment sites cater to people’s personal tastes and interests with enough content to keep them clicking? Or is “local” the niche?
At ctnow.com, we’re always wrangling with the idea of “audience.” How big or small should our target audience be so we can offer the best service? Should the parameters be based on age, or mainly geography? After reading Anderson’s article, I’m persuaded to go as big as possible, sticking mainly with geography. Anyone living, visiting or preparing to visit Connecticut should be ctnow.com’s audience. To that end, the site should offer as much Connecticut entertainment information as possible.
Following the model presented by Anderson, a local entertainment information website should, ideally:
If there is a niche in the market that lives and breathes local stage performances, than to capture that audience, the local entertainment site should provide listings, performance reviews, photos, video and links to ticket sales to keep those readers coming back. If there are a group of people who want to know about ethnic restaurants in Windham County, the entertainment site should be able to provide an searchable database for restaurants in that county and of that genre.
I think the local restaurant database, in particular, is a niche that can only get better with “more.” People love going out to eat. Dining is a preference and everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes. A local dining database can distinguish itself with interactivity, offering users more than just “yellow pages” with mapping. Local restaurant listings can be richer and more useful if they included multiple reviews of restaurants by dining critics, reader feedback/ratings, photos of the food, drinks & ambience, website links, online-only coupons, and recommendations for other restaurants in that genre or vicinity. The searchable database should offer consistent information about as many restaurants as possible. It could lead to partnering with other content providers to make the local database of restaurants even larger and more accurate.
More, it seems, is the key for success, but only if the niche goods offered (local information in this case) are consistently of high quality. If standards can’t be adhered to, consumers from all niches will be turned off, and “more” won’t help.
Anderson, Chris. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired, 12(10). [ html ]