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September 27, 2007


David G

Jeff is obviously spot on with his comments about the long tail from a small content creators perspective. Regardless of how much long tail content there is out there it still needs distribution. Just because I can make my music available on iTunes doesn't mean anyone will find it and buy it. So the long tail is missing the distribution element needed for discovery and purchase of niche content. Creators need to get a realistic handle on what they can expect to earn from their creativity.

This can be calculated by : Niche audience size, minus niche audience you can not reach, times products niche audience is willing to pay for.

Personally I think the niche audience IS the distribution. If everyone who is into paddle watersports displayed an e-store that sold material on that subject from their various web presences then that distribution would be created and it would also expand naturally. That niche audience could then take part in the value chain by earning a cut of whatever they helped sell.

David G

Jeff is obviously spot on with his comments about the long tail from a small content creators perspective. Regardless of how much long tail content there is out there it still needs distribution. Just because I can make my music available on iTunes doesn't mean anyone will find it and buy it. So the long tail is missing the distribution element needed for discovery and purchase of niche content. Creators need to get a realistic handle on what they can expect to earn from their creativity.

This can be calculated by : Niche audience size, minus niche audience you can not reach, times products niche audience is willing to pay for.

Personally I think the niche audience IS the distribution. If everyone who is into paddle watersports displayed an e-store that sold material on that subject from their various web presences then that distribution would be created and it would also expand naturally. That niche audience could then take part in the value chain by earning a cut of whatever they helped sell.


Well, obviously I cannot make any argument to Jeff's plight, and my heart goes out to him.

I think in general, however, that the key is still the collaborative filters, social networking, etc. Stuff to drive consumers down the tail. One of the reasons I don't like iTunes is that it does a really crappy job of showing you options. The classic "people who bought this also like"...if someone finds a way to combine a good music store with last.fm, THAT will be huge.

Also, I think that someone needs to start working on integrating long tail sales stuff with social networking. Imagine if Ning included a way to implement storefronts, ratings, and recommendations into its niche social networks. That way, David's comments about the niche audience being the distribution would have a web 2.0, long tail reality.

Good luck to Jeff! I hope things get better.

(One thing I didn't understand...is he making a paddlesport movie, or is he making canoes? What's the film-maker thing got to do with it?)


I think he's working across two different areas here - trying to be in the head and the tail at once, as it were. I think if you're going to do it you have to really go fully one way or the other in terms of the business model.

In terms of filmmaking, that's why I think the A Swarm of Angels project is so interesting. (Not sure if links will get caught here, so Google it)

Jeff Bach

Hi all

Thanks for the comments, I was wondering if I would be labelled an imbecile by those reading my note to Chris. If I am, thanks for withholding the comment!

Yes I am making DVDs, so call me a filmmaker. No, I am not building canoes or kayaks, although one future project does involve a DVD showing how to make a cedar strip canoe.

Discovery is a very good word to describe a critical issue in this specialty content business. Social networking is another good one, although to me, I kind of put that in with blogging on the topic and producing an email newsletter. Any or all of them, if done well, can only help. Google AdWords is probably a necessity. I have not yet looked into it though and I suspect that the keyword auctions are not cheap, so finding the $$ for that marketing line item is an issue.

I think paying attention to the demographics of your retail buyer is important as well. For example, I could posit that my typical retail buyer is 40+, affluent, outdoorsy or married to someone outdoorsy. So far so good. But things get interesting when I consider that as my demographic ages, fewer and fewer of them are routinely on the internet in a buying mood, looking to discover a product like I have. They are out there though - but where? For the most part they are in a retail store discovering and then holding the product in their hand before they buy it. Which brings me back to the importance, for Quietwater anyway, of having national distributors and a shelf presence in retail stores. That part of the business then becomes wholesale, with a margin that is half or less of retail, so it makes the volume aspect of the business even more important.

Quietwater is working with two distributors and hopefully that will flesh out over time. I do need to put more effort into the retail (mainly online) side of things, but right now developing the wholesale segment is a bit more active. On the retail side, I built an e-store at Createspace.com. They have a "just-in-time" model that is very efficient and takes care of the credit card and shipping issues as well, which is very significant. Their cost is reasonable as well. On the frustrating side, their online store has Quietwater content buried in a very awkward browsing tree which results in non-existent discovery. Their browsing tree has no entry for "outdoor recreation", which is a real bummer. Quietwater products (a solo canoe DVD and a rec kayak DVD) are available via Amazon, which does a great deal on the discovery side, but they take a huge chunk of the total sale price. It is depressing to write but...a retail sale on Amazon yields less than a DVD sold wholesale. Is the benefit of discovery on Amazon worth the cost? This is partly why I'm doing more with the wholesale side of the business, it actually makes more $$/DVD than Amazon retail does!

In the end, I think things will work out, but my fingers are crossed and I am an eternal optimist. This is a business that is ultimately based on people's "mad" money and the fact that Quietwater Films' topics cover what someone WANTS (recreation) to do rather than what they HAVE (work) to do. People tend to be happy, excited, and positive. Which is nice to be around.
thanks for the comments!
Jeff Bach

Eric Marden

I'm going to leave a quick comment, and then trackback a longer post, as there are quite a few things I want to address in both the original email, and the ensuing conversation. I will make my most important point here.

The Long Tail book wasn't really a how-to on how to sell in the Long Tail, as much as I'm sure we all wish it was, so I had to let it simmer before I started seeing actions I could take.

What I got was that if you're going to make long tail content, then you have to yourself be a sort of Long tail too. In other words, you need to aggregate enough of your talents, so that you can make a living off a number of niches.

Jeff you said it yourself, but forgot to include yourself:

".. that you do not need to depend on its Long Tail sales to make your living."

I've starting to apply this to myself with some promising indicators that I'm on the right path.

All the best,

Eric Marden


This underscores stuff I've been saying in this blog's comments for a long time now. I know so many musicians facing this problem.

The idea of great to the consumer, not so great for the producer is spot on.

Maybe you should go on tour and sell t-shirts. That seems to be the best answer anyone has for musicians.

Jeff Bach

Hi all

Eric I agree. The Long Tail is not a description of how to sell. It could well be the description for another gigantic limitless mall. Great for the CONSUMER that wants to wander around and discover or browse. For the store-owner/content-creator, whether it is mall or internet, it is a very different story, packed with many of the same problems and requirements regardless of it being physical or virtual.

In my original post, I mentioned the need to produce fresh content on a regular basis. This tracks well with aggregating several niches like EM suggests. Quietwater Films has done a solo canoe DVD (that DVD won a Telly Award!), a recreational kayak DVD, Oct. 5 is the start of a tandem canoe DVD, approx. Oct 25 is the start of a kayak fishing DVD and further out there are plans for more as well. While your intent may be content from several areas, what Quietwater is doing also fits your point. One piece is not enough, you need pennies coming in from lots of different angles.

J-Lon imo musicians have it tougher than filmmakers, although the issue of people spending their mad money in a pleasure/leisure environment is the same. I think the t-shirt thing has some truth to it. Sell a single on iTunes for 0.99. Your cut is some fraction of 99 cents. Sell a t-shirt for 17.95 at a show you are doing and your cut could well be 10x-20x greater than the music sale. Hopefully the math and the marketing work out in favor of the music though!

Patxi Bonel

Hello Jeff, I can see your point but if a take apart the emotional part of your message it's difficult for me to support it.

We have a Spanish popular saying: "Lion's tail or mouse head". And I can assure you that trying to live in the long tail in Spain is much more complicated than in the States.
The point is that when you divide main LongTail into subcategories of products you almost always end up with smaller new long tails.

Where is your company position in the paddle sports DVD's Long Tail? I've tried to find your company in Google or Yahoo searching for "canoe kayak DVD".

You are right, competition exists everywhere, including every Long Tail niche and it's not easy. So, Lion's tail or mouse head ?

I whish you best !!

Regards, Patxi

Max Vaehling

Yep, we all wanted that how-to book. But even in its actual form, "The Long Tail" has been helpful. By describing the shape of the market we're all trying to fit into, it gives us a hint as to how our individual products should be shaped to fit.

My personal answer was, provide as many shapes and titles in as many places as possible. Not to become a long tail, but a kind of aggregator.

Around the time I read the book, I was contemplating several print-on-demand services for my stuff, trying to determine which one would be best fit to publish with. I chose all of them, of course, and now I'm thinking of ways to make electronic versions available. Still doesn't beat a day job, but it's a step.


Just curious, your margins on Amazon may be smaller than your margins in wholesale, but how about the quantities sold at each place?


I read Longtail as a Macro trend, where niche product survives alongwith mass product in the "Longrun". Which allows buyer to expand his taste beyond 'popular' kind.

In this case, Jeff's would be able to sell his DVDs for many years, provided it is unique and remarkable.

How to make a living out of this trend, is a different aspect altoghether.

--One way could be to generate many kinds of niche products.
--Another would be continue a day job while you become world famous in that niche

We all seem to agree - "Life is not easy and neither is fair".
"Don't underestimate power of marketing"

Jeff Bach

Hi all
To me Patxi's entry asks the question, "Am I doing enough to be findable?" Currently, I think Quietwater is not doing enough to get its content discovered on the internet.

Why is that? #1 - For now there is more activity, interest, sales and better margins offline than there is online. Over time I hope that changes to more of a balance. I can't devote full time to Quietwater online efforts, I have another job and wife/kids/house etc. So I devote time as much as I can to the aspect that offers the largest and fastest return. Which is offline sales.

#2 - An email newsletter is in the works which over time, I hope helps the online segment.

#3 - Quietwater does have some video podcasts up on iTunes. So far it is hard to say if that is of significance or not for online efforts. I do think that podcasts need to be their own content and not clips from the DVD which is what we did. So the "round 1" of content may not be doing much traffic building. Hard to say though. I learned from the first effort, so the second effort will be different and hopefully better and more effective.

#4 - Like way too many other micro businesses we went into the production focused on the content and just getting it out the door. Too much attention on the passion thing (content) and not enough on the business thing (marketing & promotion). Now that the production workflow is underway, the belated focus now turns to S&M and promotion. Kind of backwards and done in classic small business style. Too little attention paid to the important things. Shame on me, but I am trying to recover.....

#5 - Google searching using paddlesports terms turns up interesting stuff. Quietwater is not easily found. But hardly anything centric to paddlesports MEDIA is found. There is very little out there to be discovered. Does this say there is no market? Or simply that no one is doing a good job with online discovery optimization? Or does it say that most work is still offline and in stores? The canoes and kayaks and paddling gear does come up, as expected. Bottom line is that clearly there is ample room for improvement for Quietwater in the Google realm.

#6 - Is the relative lack of a market online indicate a niche that no one has filled and is therefore an opportunity? Or does it say that there are not enough online buyers to sustain a market and therefore Quietwater is the latest to enter, try and make a go of it, only to sustain too much loss and retreat back to the hole we crawled out of?

#7 - I am rapidly gaining respect for "aggregating". Relying on a few small things just does not work. Relying on many small things is better.


Jeff Bach

Madhu is right on the money. Could not agree more.

Is it just my browser or is his entry and mine all mixed together and bolded?

Morten Blaabjerg

Jeff, why would you need "national distributors", when you've got the world's greatest communication system at your feet? If you know how to use it, that is. Learn how to create a website, install some eshopping software, and buy some appropriate Google Ads, then you should be on your way. It's cheap, you don't need a lot of capital to get started. It may be hard work, sure! But nobody said it wouldn't be. You don't expect your customers to come all by themselves, do you? (That won't work offline either)

Morten Blaabjerg

[Have to say that I didn't read the discussion above, just the "letter"]

Morten Blaabjerg

When reading my comment again I can see if it sounds annoyed and shortheaded. In part it is because I know where you come from (I produce "niche" films, among many other things), but I also sense from your original post, that you think that by doing the same business as usual in "long tail" space, you will end up doing as well as if you do your business in some "traditionel" sense.

The truth is, that if you continue to do business the "traditional" way, you may work hard and live well for a few years, but end up dead alongside the other dinosaurs. If you go your own way, work hard and create a creative business model, you'll open up complete new economical and cultural landscapes. You have a global communications medium at your imminent disposal. That how revolutionary the internet is, and it hasn't dawned on that many people yet. There's your business advantage. Use it.

Mads Schjolin

Jeff, interesting post! I work with search engine optimization (SEO), so my perspective on this is the online part of your business. Even if offline has greater margins, I think online would have greater volumes in the long run. Margins could even increase drastically if the main part of your DVD's were sold from your own website.

You need to invest in search engine optimization. To determine whether there's a demand for your product (and to quantify it), use Overture (inventory.overture.com). It tells you the number of searches in January 07 on Yahoo for any term. Here are a few:

38 kayak dvd
0 canoe dvd
0 canoe video
119 kayak video
215 kayaking video
57 kayaking dvd

Yahoo has about 24% of all searches (http://www.electriclemonade.com/searchesonlinepersearchenginejanuary2007.html) so you can multiply those numbers by four to cover all search engines:

152 kayak dvd
476 kayak video
860 kayaking video
228 kayaking dvd

Your website should be found on Google when people search for those terms. If SEO is too expensive, get adwords. You should combine the search marketing effort with trying to create awareness around it in relevant online communities (blogs, fora etc.).

Jeff Bach

Hi all

A question first of all - is there a successful Long Tail movie production company out there that Quietwater could better emulate? Is someone in another niche successfully selling online in quantities large enough to....no longer fit in the Long Tail??

Morton, I readily admit Quietwater needs to do more online in order to sell more online and improve our overall visibility. I do think though, that you are a bit too far off the other end of the scale. Our positions may end up balancing each other out :) In my opinion, you are looking too much at the producer's side of the fence and not enough at the customer’s side. I think that recognizing where buyers are coming from and what they use and do to find content is important. To paraphrase a movie line - build it (online) and they will come is NOT always true imo. Most of the purchasing public still is offline - wish I had a number for this. Maybe SOME Long Tail content sells in such low quantity in part because it is too much online and not enough offline where other additional customers could be waiting??

In SOME cases, especially with an older demographic or with physical items that tend to be browsed in retail stores (like kayaks), not much has changed in terms of how the items are browsed and purchased. Quietwater content is a supplemental product. People that buy our DVDs tend to first be buying and using canoes and kayaks. Most of which are purchased offline. imo, to reach that large segment of customers a proportional chunk of my content should be in those same offline locations.

I think this varies according to content, e.g. if I'm producing Chad Vader clips – these guys got started in Madison, WI. where we are based - then yes all online. I might point out though, that they are not making any money. Millions of views and some discovery, but no money. If I am a horse trainer with a DVD on dressage, then I probably want to go where a significant chunk of my customers are - offline stores and events. Online is still an important part, but it is one of several channels. Not the only channel, or even the main channel. By the way, I'm not arguing to drop the online sales component, I am asserting that other channels are equally important and are worth the time and effort.

Mads, yes I do need to do much of what you suggest. Thanks for the numbers and the resources. Assuming you are based in Germany, I am impressed with the reach of Chris’ blog! This brings up the thought of Quietwater’s content being localized. The DVD specification allows for multiple language tracks. I wonder if there would be enough demand to justify the production expenses for translating our content into German, Swedish, Japanese, etc.

I know Quietwater is not doing enough online. Now I’m wondering about missing opportunities with populations that kayak and canoe and speak other languages?? Maybe the marketing plan should include seeding YouTube etal. with short clips in other languages that point back to Quietwater??
thanks all, this is a great thread!

Jeff Bach

I just registered Quietwater Films in the DMOZ. The DMOZ is an Open Directory Project, basically it is an open source effort to organize and categorize the internet. You can find it at www.dmoz.org. Seems like an appropriate Long Tail resource.


Test. Hopefully the bold has been removed.





It works in the preview, if not on the thread.

Jakob Nielsen

My company has produced one film, which we sell from our website (nngroup.com). It's too narrowly targeted to be in stores, and in my field (usability), we don't have physical centers like kayak rentals.

It took about 3 years for this DVD to sell enough copies to make back the investment. If you have something very specialized, you should probably expect sales to trickle in over a very long period of time.

This counts in favor of selecting topics where the video can stay relevant for many years. In my case, I picked the most low-tech topic in our field: paper prototyping. An index card looks the same now as it did 3 years ago, and it'll look the same in 5 years.

Re. search engine marketing: I am sure it will be good to buy ads for keywords like "kayaking video", but remember that users usually search for their problem, not for your solution. In other words, if they don't know that there's a kayak video available, they won't search for that phrase.

They will search for "learn kayaking" or "improve kayaking skills" or something more specialized related to maybe how to hold the paddle under certain current conditions (just making that up, since I don't know kayaking).

Your email newsletter is a great idea for long-term sustainability and for building up a loyal customer base. That's where you can cover current developments that will not have sufficient staying power to support making a film that takes 3-5 years to recover the costs.


The executives at DMG still seem to be in the process of choosing a business model. Last year, the company said it planned to beef up hiring so it could sign, promote and market undiscovered artists. In May, it abruptly shifted gears, laying off seven of its 15 workers, and decided to focus on buying the rights of golden oldies. Also in the second quarter, the company took a $75,000 writedown for a non-recoverable advance it made to an unnamed recording artist

Eric Marden

Hi Jeff, et al.

Not sure how trackbacks work in typepad, but I just published my full length response to this on my blog with a post entitled: Living In the Long Tail.

Check it out if you're interested in hearing my thoughts on the matter. Thanks!


collaborative filtering will eventually find you your niche.

whether your niche is big enough for you to "make a living"
is another question, however.

but one thing you have to keep in mind is that when you _do_
come into contact with your niche, it will be a relationship
of substance, not an anonymous vendor-purchaser transaction.

so it's important that you think in terms of "community",
and not "customers". if you want to "make sales", then
the long-tail is not for you. so "make friends" instead.

just some observations, not pointed at anybody in particular.


Mr. Reilly

Hi all. I am enjoying this thread. I have a "niche" market and I am researching many topics contained within these posts. I would appreciate any feedback or helpful links. I want to make a profit on my content and it is targeted to a very specific audience. I am wondering about the tail -- is it a good idea to have people pay a small fee for the content or make it free and support the given website with advertising. Secondly, is it better to have an autonomous self-created website that I control or use a mostly free social networking site for the website address such as facebook or myspace? Any feedback for an indy producer with an interest in "show" AND "business" would be appreciated! Kudos to all who have posted insightful info on Quietwater and related "New Media" business models.



jeux video

Excellent review..I felt that the young man revealed how serious he was about filmmaking when he did’t spend every waking minute doing that “gag reel” edit he was entrusted with. THAT showed a lack of passion. Still, I imagine he was conflicted about many things..his family was in jeopardy and we should never forget that as a backdrop to the film.

gifts for men

In the film Dick features independent filmmakers lamenting the bizarre changes they had to make to satisfy the seemingly arbitrary demands of the ratings administration....

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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