Classically, Internet Marketing guru’s have promoted a model that often champions going a mile wide and two inches deep. The thought is that by stretching outward, you capture more targets. Then your content only has to be so deep because you have so many marks. This philosophy, of course, is predicated on the premise that because your footprint can reach so many different people at one time, you’ll only have to go so deep in order to find qualified users or customers. Think network television. Network television works because it reaches so many eyeballs at the same time…and instead of becoming the Softball Channel (deep), it serves all different tastes (wide) a little at a time.
More recently, another “reach” model has surfaced with equal validity and backing from Internet experts; that idea is Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail.” The overall premise here is a notion that choice is paramount to success…only not in the classic mile wide way. Rather, the mile wide concept is categorized for particular niches.
With the Long Tail you aim at a few feet wide only – several thousand times over. You go after unearthly numbers of people through specific population groups. Then, you go very deep for those specific population groups. It’s like having the best of both worlds. Without compromising the depth of your offering, you are able to reach out as well.
Back to the network television example. Now, instead of only having one channel with many different ideas…you have one channel about one thing, like the Food Network (deep, and then another channel about something else; and another; ad infinitum (wide). It’s like comparing basic cable with six channels to the DISH with HDTV and 500 channels.
The commanding model is alluring in one very specific way – you can go wide and deep at the same time. While that might seem like a lot of effort, it can be worth it – particularly online.
With brick and mortar, overhead will kill the advantage you gain in catalog. But with “free” internet space for the taking, you can hold thousands upon thousands of items and not take up any more physical space.
So, knowing that, why doesn’t everyone use the second, more attractive idea? Well, while the long tail is certainly attractive in concept, it can be challenging in practice. Usually, a business has to be content rich. And, frankly, many businesses don’t realize the benefits of having content for people to find.
Whether you decide to follow the tail or not is up to your organization. But the consequences will follow each decision as well. Prep, the right kind of content, the correct wide angle of approach for your business…all of these things can trip you up. But if done right, you could be the net hero for your company or organization.