Professor Murmann's Blog: Reflections On “The Long Tail” - Give me Good Data!

Reflections On “The Long Tail” - Give me Good Data!

A few days ago, I came across a very positive review of The Long Tail, a new book by Wired Maganize writer Chris Anderson. The book’s main thesis is that “the future of commerce and culture isn’t in hits, the high-volume head of a traditional demand curve, but in what used to be regarded as misses - the endlessly long tail of that same curve.” The books purports to show that the 80/20 rule (most sales derive from a few products) does not apply any more with internet retailing because internet retaling can stock many more items. This morning Lee Gomez in his Wall Street Journal column trashed Anderson’s analysis, claiming that Anderson’s data was flawed. (You can read the Gomez colum “Long Tail’ May Not Wag the Web Just Yet”  on or through your library’s article database.) Anderson in turn claims that Gomez did not get the data right and wrote a facinating rebutall on his website. What this exchange underlines is that getting good data and working meticulously to draw the correct conclusion often is worth a “fortune” for managers. More broadly, before you adopt a new fashionable business idea, ask yourself what data supports that the idea in fact is going to work. With more data you might have realized that the idea hurts as often as it helps.