There are few times in the economic history of man when so many people have been led astray by a meme as misguided as “long tail marketing”.  Considering that this ill-advised philosophy draws its intellectual inspiration – “build it and they will come” – from a Kevin Costner fantasy film, Field of Dreams, it should come as no surprise that the only long tail in sight is the one we keep chasing in vain.

And this is just one reason the online ecosystem is so overwhelmingly dysfunctional.

Case in point:  Industry pundits claim that what is needed to attract big brand budgets is mass reach.


  • Long Tail content is decidedly niche and works against reach and the budgets that would follow.
  • Audience targeting methodologies further inhibit scalable reach.
  • Producers of “long tail, niche content” have no affordable way to drive scalable traffic.
  • Producers of niche video content have no distribution budgets BECAUSE they have no scalable traffic.  Produce it and they will come…eventually, maybe, hopefully.
  • Long tail content producers seek partnerships with others in the same boat, i.e. AOL’s “bigger is better” strategy.
  • With no big brand support, content producers can’t produce and deliver a quality product.
  • Long tail content producers fall back on the notion that they will make money in the long run…

The interesting thing about the entertainment business is that the original Hollywood moguls cut their teeth as haberdashers and small businessmen who understood the basics of supply and demand.  They knew who their customers were: the folks spending money with them.

And therein lies the crux of the matter, because at the end of the day, it’s not about content distribution at all.  It’s about advertising, to wit in today’s online fantasy world, most content producers and publishers don’t even know what business they’re in.  They think their job is to flood an infinite media supply with information and entertainment, when they should be concentrating instead on ways to satisfy a very finite consumer demand.

One thing’s for certain:  They aren’t making money.

To illustrate this blind foolishness, let me paraphrase a recent conversation I had with a video content producer:

Me: I chanced upon your site, and I’d like to discuss your business model. I’m also writing an article about online video, and I’m curious as to how you view your role in media ecosystem.  How much traffic are you getting?

Producer: About 500,000 visitors a month.

Me: How are you monetizing those views?

Producer: Well, that’s a bit of a problem. Every now and then we get highly targeted ads that pay a great CPM. But we do not have enough traffic yet.

Me: Don’t you have a problem with abandons of your pre-roll ads?

Producer: Yes.

Me: With our video portal, we experience up to 40% abandon rate with pre-roll. Does that jive with your experience?

Producer: Pretty much.

Me: What’s your distribution strategy?

Producer: Well, most of our views take place on You Tube.

Me: How’s that working out for you? Are you making money with them?

Producer: Well, that’s another problem. They are not monetizing the views and will not allow me to monetize them.

Me: So, you produced this content, don’t have enough views on your site and the distribution on You Tube is not yielding money. How do you plan on staying in business?

Producer: Well, in the long run…

About Jaffer Ali

Jaffer Ali is the CEO of e-commerce company, He is a serial entrepreneur who has touched every part of the online ecosystem since 1998. Jaffer is known as a contrarian thought leader who has contributed over 250 essays to industry trades covering every aspect of online media and marketing topics. A collection of his essays can be downloaded for free: Chasing String In The Digital Era.



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