There's no money in the long tail of the blogosphere

Original author: Alex Iskold
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Below is a translation of the article “There's No Money In The Long Tail of the Blogosphere” , which is devoted to a review of the mechanisms and criticism of existing ideas about the profitability of the “long tail”.

A long tail In 2004, Chris Anderson wrote the important book “ The Long Tail ”. In it, he argued that the future of the business would somehow represent sales. Its main premise was that things, the demand for which is quite low, together can produce a significant amount. This is because in the "long tail" there are a huge number of people who cover a wide range of possible needs.

A classic example of a successful long tail policy is Amazon. A significant part of their sales falls on little-known books. Amazon independently stocks rare books, and distributes them through numerous online partners. The network effect is the large amount of sales per long tail. This phenomenon is best described by a quote from one of the employees: “Today, we sold more books today that didn't sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday ).

In the last article, we found out the reasons why people like to blog. From herself and her comments, it can be established that people very rarely start blogs to make money. The blogs they start live in the long tail of the blogosphere, however, the truth is that making money in the long tail is quite difficult. According to Anderson, money is earned from sales of this "long tail", and not from the existence of it. In this article, we will examine why this happens, and also take a look at other aspects of the long tail economy.

80 to 20 rule

80 to 20 ruleThere is a popular proverb ( Pareto law ): 80% of the world's wealth belongs to 20% of people ( 80% of the wealth of the world is in the hands of 20% of people ). Although we know that the number of very rich people is closer to 2% than to 20%, but the proverb turns the well-known mathematical formula, known as power dependence , into folk wisdom. The Wikipedia page, located at the link above, is full of mathematical formulas, but the essence of this law is extremely simple: the rich get richer.

To better understand this concept, just look at the well-known news aggregator - Digg. Obviously, there are popular users with significant power on it. How did this happen? The simplest explanation: they were the first users of this service. Since Digg has grown due to the infusion of new people, and new connections were formed randomly. As in any other network (which experiences an influx of new nodes, and between which random connections are established), the nodes that were originally, eventually become significant centers.

Therefore, the basis of such an apparently complex phenomenon as power-law dependence is based only on the concepts of time and chance. The reason why the “long tail” is formed is absolutely analogous to the formation of significant centers - this is time. The larger the number of people in such a network, the less likely it is for a new member of the community to establish a connection with a particular participant.

Traffic problem

Traffic problemNow imagine that our network is the blogosphere in which new blogs appear every day. Apparently, these are more and more bloggers who seek to earn their penny. They start online diaries, choose a unique topic, explore Google ads and various affiliate programs and start writing notes. But here they are disappointed: in order to earn money by blogging, they don’t have enough good, original text - they need traffic.

As follows from the power law, the “long tail” of the blogosphere is very large, and getting to some individual blog is not so simple. The likelihood that a casual Internet user will log into a specific blog from the "long tail" is practically zero.

Therefore, the earnings of the author of the blog from the "long tail" after installing the Google AdSense or Amazon code becomes significant only with large volumes of traffic. AdSense works for Google because probability plays into its hands: it combines small pieces of traffic across the Internet, based on the large size of the network as a whole. This, of course, is true for large sites with a lot of traffic, but breaks off for resources whose traffic is not too high.

Making Money on the Long Tail

You can earn on the “long tail”, but not on the “long tail”. Anderson’s precise statement boiled down to the collective power of the “long tail,” because only the real volume is present in it. The benefits of sales and advertising are precisely in volume. You can earn as much traffic as one popular site, and the sum of a large number of minor and much less popular.

Long Tail Money

What about companies that rely on the long tail of the blogosphere? Due to the fact that there are not many advantages for each individual blogger, doing business on the long tail of the blogosphere is quite risky. This applies, in particular, to companies specializing in widgets that hope to gain significant distribution by attracting bloggers from the "long tail". This, of course, is perhaps only necessary to keep in mind that the promotion of authors cannot be exclusively monetary.

As soon as bloggers are disappointed in the opportunity to get some kind of return on their diaries, the companies that do business with them will have to pay a lot. The price can be very high due to the fact that a rather large amount of money is hidden in the longest tail. If it falls apart, then the blow to the business will be appropriate.


It is often forgotten that money is made on the "long tail" as a whole, however, being a part of it, it is very difficult to earn something substantial. The blogosphere is a huge number of blogs with extremely few readers. It's pretty naive to expect blogs to start making money for their creators. As soon as the authors of the “long tail” run out of enthusiasm and nothing stimulates them, how badly will a business using this aggregate of sites together suffer? Apparently, quite significantly.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this note. I will be glad to your comments.

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