Are Social Influencers Clipping The Long Tail of Mobile?

As impressive as 500 million applications downloaded is, I’m impressed that this has transpired via the clipped tail. Yes, the clipped tail. Not the long tail. The clipped tail.

The clipped tail?

Yep, clipped. Because of the 500,000,000 downloaded from the 10,000,000 iPhones in market, consumers chose from just 15,000 applications. What got me thinking about this was based on a post I read the other day regarding the disappearance of the long tail in mobile content.

In a UK blog by Mobile Entertainment, research shows up to 92 per cent of songs in mobile stores have not been downloaded.

In fact, consumers download just a small fraction of the songs available on full-track mobile services.

This is the reverse of the argument made by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail, which decreed that the success of digital retail depends on depth of catalogue.

That thinking has been adopted almost wholesale in the mobile content space too.

But according to 24-7 Entertainment, which runs music services for online and mobile partners “vast swathes of songs languish unloved”.

It says that of 4.3 million songs available to mobile users on all-you-can-eat services it powers, 3.68 million (85 per cent) have never been downloaded at all.

The numbers are even more dramatic in the á la carte space. 4.13 million (92 per cent) out of 4.5 million tracks have never been purchased.

Will iPhone applications suffer the same cruel fate?

Going on pure anecdotal memory, I recall when BREW made its splash in the mobile space and companies such as Thumbworks made a relatively large amount of money in a short amount of time due to the popularity of their Suzuki Motorcross game for the Verizon handsets.

The difference this time around has to do more with the influence of WOM over self discovery. The iPhone is the weapon of choice around the Twitter world. And memes grow quickly when they’re sourced back to someone such as Robert Scoble or Chris Brogan. They alone can determine what someone downloads based on a top ten list they generate.

And this in itself, coupled with a small catalog of variety, is what I consider a clipped tail.

As always your thoughts are encouraged and appreciated.

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One comment

  1. A Day in the Life · January 20, 2009

    I agree, interesting POV. I think the true power of the long tail can only be achieved, however, with a strong and effective filter influence. I am not an iPhone user and do not know how applications are sorted, but I know that Amazon, for example, is a great example of the long tail because it recommends and filters unique choices. If the filtering is only a feedback loop so that only 8% of all products are recommended it isn’t an effective use of the long tail concept. Fragmentation of markets, and subsequent long-tail applications, can really only occur when there is a driving filter presence that identifies individuals as unique and steers them uniquely.

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