Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Long Tail in radio

I'm no rocket scientist(I've never wanted to be one), or an economist(which I've sometimes wanted to be) or a social scientist(which I want to be), but one doesn't need to be any of the above to figure this out.

For Jaane Do Na from Cheeni Kum, Illayaraja uses one of his earlier compositions, Jothe Jotheyali from the Kannada film, Geetha. An earlier version of the same is Vizhiyile Undan vizhiyile from Tamil film, Nooravadu Naal. Been listening to lot of FM radio and happened to make this observation. The observation being - while Jaane Do Na was played across different radio stations, the Kannada original was played more frequently. Much like this from Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. Here's an excerpt which talks about a similar phenomenon -

In 1988, a British mountain climber named Joe Simpson wrote a book called Touching the Void, a harrowing account of near death in the Peruvian Andes. It got good reviews but, only a modest success, it was soon forgotten. Then, a decade later, a strange thing happened. Jon Krakauer wrote Into Thin Air, another book about a mountain-climbing tragedy, which became a publishing sensation. Suddenly Touching the Void started to sell again.

Random House rushed out a new edition to keep up with demand. Booksellers began to promote it next to their Into Thin Air displays, and sales rose further. A revised paperback edition, which came out in January, spent 14 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. That same month, IFC Films released a docudrama of the story to critical acclaim. Now Touching the Void outsells Into Thin Air more than two to one.

What happened? In short, recommendations. The online bookseller's software noted patterns in buying behavior and suggested that readers who liked Into Thin Air would also like Touching the Void. People took the suggestion, agreed wholeheartedly, wrote rhapsodic reviews. More sales, more algorithm-fueled recommendations, and the positive feedback loop kicked in.

Particularly notable is that when Krakauer's book hit shelves, Simpson's was nearly out of print. A few years ago, readers of Krakauer would never even have learned about Simpson's book - and if they had, they wouldn't have been able to find it. Amazon changed that. It created the Touching the Void phenomenon by combining infinite shelf space with real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. The result: rising demand for an obscure book.

While Jothe Jotheyali is by no means an obscure song, Jaane Do Na definitely helped to bring it in the popular public realm. And how did The Long Tail work here? The radio stations can store all the content they want and with smart methods of organizing such content and information, it helps them serve their audience better. All this and more without having to spend extra resources and still being able to find that one song which a caller might ask for during a request show.

Here's the Kannada song from perhaps the best example of The Long Tail -

1 comment:

Shayon™ said...

Hullo,'s been long long time, isn't it? for "The Long Tail" phenomenon, it's been on for a long long time now. The very name of the book that comes into my mind right now is Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake. It's not that the book hadn't been popular in the literary world, but then the sales definitely started to pick up insanely after the movie. And of course, how could I forget The Memoirs of Geisha? I hadn't even ever heard of the book before the movie. But then, after I read it, I did love it!!