the long tail, aka category leadership

Posted on November 30, 2009


i was reading through seth godin’s blog on “the long tail and the dp” and its really just a paraphrasing of al ries’s categoru leadership concept. basically, if you cannot win in a large category, redefine your market until you can uncover a winnable niche (category). his perspective is be the number 1 or 2 in a category otherwise get out.

personally, i dont know if this is one of those generalizations that just doesnt make that much sense in a connected world, or one which takes into account that you dont always have to “win”

1. you dont want to be number 1 in an unprofitable/unsustainable niche

2. there is a profit/effort(cost) equation that may show being a copycat product in a large niche with a low cost base may be more profitable than a leader in a specialised segment (i.e. you can piggy back off competitors advertising for the category and product innovation)

so category leadership could just be an ego issue – i.e. we need to be a leader in a category because it makes us feel good rather than its the most profitable thing to be. There is the human element too, its tough to get up in the morning looking to do absolutely nothing to change the world (even if its by making a better widget).

Both seth and al (hop they dont mind being called by their first names) speak about needing to target this specific segment and not expecting to end up in a niche, even if you targetted that mass market, by chance or as a consilation prize.

seth goes on to speak about the long tail (al doesnt) and its potential impact in getting out your message. but getting out your message isnt always profitable – the long tail is the land of the aggregator more than the producer  – i.e. the money is in aggregation of lots of long tail content rather than developing long tail content as there are a lot more people looking for lots of content than people looking for a specific piece (e.g. nest building habits of pigeons in leafy suburbs of Johannesburg).