I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the main theme of a business book gain such huge traction – before the book is even released – than The Long Tail by Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson.
In case you’ve not caught this hugely prevalent meme, I’ll let Chris explain it himself:
The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers.
Anderson’s concept has a huge promotional tail wind as the book sails toward release. And the pre-release buzz also solidifies the blogosphere as a true media outlet.
The Chartreuse (Beta) blog provides the great long tail example of Bay Area kids making good money promoting a dead rapper who never had a record deal. But what really caught my eye was this snippet later in the post about an earlier comments conversation:
Andy Hagans said yesterday that it was obvious I had read the Long Tail. I hope you have, too.
Bloggers gets it. We get it because we’re currently living it. Plus, we’ve been exposed to our own self-generated analysis of the topic over and over again.
Will we still buy the book? Some will (including me – I’m a book junkie). But as with the business blogging book Naked Conversations, we don’t necessarily need to.
We’re not even the intended audience. We’re the promoters, employed to get others to read it.
Who better to create the buzz for this book – people already seeking and finding niche audiences online, or the blockbuster obsessed consolidated media companies, who find the whole concept unsettling? Who really needs to read it – bloggers and online entrepreneurs, or traditional corporate management, geographically-challenged small businesses and giant media companies?
Here’s how this relates to your writing and marketing. You may get the long tail, but you also may still be thinking and speaking with a blockbuster mentality.
Aiming for a niche without really hitting it is the kiss of death. Here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Starting out, make sure you understand the difference between your potential promoters and your prospects. If you do that (and your business) correctly, your resulting customers will then take over as evangelists.
2. Quit pining for that A-list link. Link to your peers, they’ll return the favor, and you’ll all build traffic together. There’s already grumbling about condescension and exclusivity among the A-list bloggers. Create your own network.
3. Even if your subject area has a large potential audience, thin the herd. Speak in a voice that resonates with and engages an audience that’s truly your own. Better to have a smaller group of rabid fans than to deliver watered-down drivel that appeals to no one.
The key to a successful niche is this – you’ve got to own it. It all comes back to understanding your audience and putting them first.