The Long Tail of millions of posters

You would think that popular people with lots of friend or followers would get a lot more traffic than those small know people….. Well, that’s wrong. Bump (2012)  suggested that online content is spread through large numbers of people sharing with small groups. I guess at the heart of it, information sharing is the same as it has been forever, word of mouth among peer groups. The difference is that the groups are now more connected and far broader than ever before.

So that now means that by word of mouth, people can recommend something that is a long, long way down the catalogue list. If each of these niche ‘somethings’ is sold to a couple of people you have the long tail that can add up to a large new market.

This catalogue list becomes far longer than any Angus & Roberston book shop can store in one physical space. Hence the graph below, the left is the short head of hits and the long tail trails off to the right as the number of titles increases.

In 2004, Chris Anderson asked consumers:

What percentage of the top 10,000 music titles will sell or rent at least once in a month?

Most people said only 20% would be whereas surprisingly, the answer is 99%. 10,000 songs is not a lot of songs if you only have to sell each one once……

Anderson also compares the 130,000 books in a normal book store like Barnes and Nobles with Amazon. Amazon sells more than half of its books from outside the top 130,000 books!

Overview sells over a million posters across 25 countries, they claim to be the largest online retailer of wall decor. If we look at in regards to Anderson long tail theory.

He suggests three big rules to ensure an application captures the long tail:

1. Make everything available

A person would not buy niche items at the local store as they cannot afford to store them. Therefore online shops have a huge advantage as they focus on one hit wonders and can afford to be far less hit-centric. The graph below demonstrates the number of documentaries available online compared to a local store, using information gathered on fits with this rule, having the largest number of poster available in the world.

2. Cut the price in half. Now lower it.

If the product is digital, the organisation can take away the retail overhead costs, manufacturing cost and the distribution costs, saving them lots of money. They just have to find, make and market the music online. The graph below has been designed around information from Jonathan Daniel and Joe Fleischer at Crush Music Media Management.

It seems that most of the posters on are very cheap, the only overhead for this site is the delivery. But the prices seem a lot cheaper than the local art gallery.

3. Help Me Find It

This rule focuses on real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. Applications use different ways to do this. As an example, Amazon filters browsing and buying histories of users. But they are all aim to do the same, have user recommendations to drive demand down the Long Tail (Anderson, 2004). The graph below uses information from offer a best sellers list and when a poster is selected it offers related categories to help the user find products a lot easier.

Other similar Web 2.0 applications

There are many other sites that sell 1000s of posters. I chose to investigate because deliver to Australia and they seemed to offer the largest number of posters – or I should say they are leveraging the longest tail.


Finding a good Web 2.0 application that provides good evidence of leveraging the long tail is difficult and I feel that is not exactly a Web 2.0 application in other of O’Reily’s design patterns except maybe harnessing the collective intelligence by gathering the search patterns and purchasing statistics of buyers.

Legal Implications

There appears to be no information on the copyright rules in regards to replicating art. If anyone knows about whether can sell this art, please let me know.

I think the site would fall over if artists stopped allowing copies of their art to be sold without a payment to them.

Future Directions

Maybe can look at becoming a richer user experience, offering tools to edit the images or draw their own images. Again the question about copyright may be an issue especially if the art is changed in any way.


Anderson, C (2004) The Long Tail. Wired. Retrieved 3rd May 2012

Bump, P. (2012) The Long Tail of Social Media. Retrieved 3rd May 2012

Johnson, A. (2005). The Long Tail. Competitive Intelligence. Retrieved 4th May 2012 Retrieved 4th May 2012


10 thoughts on “The Long Tail of millions of posters

  1. It is quite counterintuitive first that by lowering the prices drastically a company can actually make more money, but looking at your numbers it makes sense how this is possible by reducing retail overhead to zero effectively and addressing customers in the long tail. You have raised another interesting point: how do the customers actually find the niche content they are interested in? As you mentioned, recommendation systems are the answer and I think this is an area where we will see tremendous advancements in the near future. Nowadays, the greatest challenge of the Internet is the sorting and filtering of the already available information. A company who can do this better clearly wins in the long tail game too.

    • I agree with you digitalrainforest, that reviews and recommendations are the crucial part to be able to leverage the long tail. I checked out the online retailer LightInTheBox for my post, and was surprised and amazed of their use of reviews! They really build trust with it! (If you wanna check out:

      When it comes to AllPosters this is definitely a business that will earn a lot on leveraging the long tail. Just imagine the massive shelf space you would need, and also all the different prints. Very good example!

      • I know LightInTheBox and have used it before, it does have an amazing range of products. I look forward to reading your blog post.
        Thanks for your ongoing support of my blog. I am glad you like my choice of I think I will be using their site in the future as I know that I can get any poster or art piece that I would ever want – the long tail of products!

    • Your comment has really pulled out the two most interesting and important points about leveraging the long tail. Reducing the overhead and using recommendations.
      There is just so much information out there that there is absolutely no way we could ever access it all unless we have so sort of fantastic filing system OR use our friends and networks to get recommendations. Thanks.

      • I know! I really liked this pattern, since I feel like it really results in a great difference to the users. The network of reviews make the whole shopping experience a whole lot easier, and not only shopping either. Just anything where you need to trust something you are not sure of. To read someones thought and opinions sure helps a lot. Just try to think of the different areas it can apply!

        (and a tip, as I noticed you had same problem as me with he comments not threading further. Go to dashboard->settings-> discussions, and you can chose how many you want to be threaded 😉 )

  2. Very detailed post Nicole. It was interesting read about the three big rules as you mentioned. What I just realized was how much competition this Long Tail Theory would create, considering applications such as Ebay and Amazon would often sell similar products to How do you think is fighting against this competition? Even though has clearly utilized the long tail theory, their competition is far more aggressive and popular.

    • I think has the advantage of being a niche market. I use their site when I am specifically looking for a piece of art or a poster. Whereas I use Amazon or Ebay for more general products. For example, if I am looking for a gift for someone and I am not really sure what, I search Amazon. I think the key to leveraging the long tail is ensuring that the site has a niche product area so when a users searches for a specific product, they are guaranteed to find it there.
      In relation to competing with more popular sites, just needs to ensure they carry an enormous selection of posters and they need only sell a few of each of these posters to make their money. It is all related to the graph in my post.

  3. Great Post Nichole, Your description of the three big rules a web 2.0 company must follow as they move along the long tail was great, it was straight to point and much easier to understand. I didn’t realize amazon had so many more documentaries available to their customers over Netflix, might have to sign up to Amazon Prime Streaming.

    • I was quite surprised by the number of documentaries that Amazon has as well. It is a perfect example of why they are worth so much. I was trying to imagine the size of their warehouse where they store all these along with the million other products. But, I think Amazon is quite often the middle man and only buys the product from the producer when a customer buys off them!
      Amazon Prime Streaming is so easy and it offers so many options as to where to watch. It is the start of much bigger things, I think.

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