By Jennifer Noxon

Long Tail economics combined with the wisdom of the crowds can be a potent mix for e-tailers who want to boost revenue.

long-tail-graph.gifLong Tail author, guru, blogger and Wired mag’s editor Chris Anderson wrote in 2004 that, “If the 20th-century entertainment industry was about hits, the 21st will be equally about misses.” In 2007, the traditional hit-driven geographic-centric offline entertainment industry has moved over to make room for an online entertainment industry that is building an economy around the ”misses”.

The online movie rental industry has been applying this thinking with marked success. Statistics show that online rental subscription revenues are expected to rise to $285 million US in 2011 from just $12 million in 2006, or 88.4-per-cent growth compounded annually. (PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2007-2011).

Zip.ca is a Canadian online movie rental service and market2world client. In a recent Ottawa Business Journal cover story, Rick Anderson, Zip.ca’s CEO and President, a self-proclaimed, long-tail content provider, attributes Zip’s success to providing “users with what they want – not just the most popular, but the entire long tail of video content. Part of our philosophy takes us not just through different ranges of titles but also different types of formats ... and online distribution is another emerging format that will continue to grow.” Zip.ca offers a collection of 72,000 individual titles and approximately 400,000 physical DVDs in total. Blockbuster, the world's largest retailer of rentable videos, DVDs and video games offers over 2,000 DVDs and over 3,000 classic movies – which shies in comparison.

Furthermore, with the ability to generate a list of recommended movies for customers based on their previous movie ratings, Zip can influence a customer’s purchasing behaviour by suggesting titles they might not have heard of or otherwise considered.

In terms of harnessing the wisdom of the crowds, Zip.ca’s sister service Zip.tv, is a vibrant and growing online community that invites movie lovers to rate movies, participate in forums, publish movie reviews, post blogs and user-generated videos. Three million ratings of movies and TV shows have been posted on the site so far, and more than 40,000 movie and TV reviews have been published on Zip.tv by thousands of people. In the words of Rachel West, Zip.ca subscriber, community member and cinephile, “I love being able to share and connect with other movie lovers through reviews, forums and blogs. It’s a great way of getting to know what movies people are talking about across the country.”

According to Rick Anderson, the Long Tail approach appears to be working, "We're seeing steady growth in our revenues and operations of about 25 to 30 per cent a year”.

With the ability to satisfy the eclectic needs of a customer base, influence purchasing behavior, and engage existing and potential customers in online communities, long tail content providers like Zip.ca are able to grow big from “thinking long”.

(Jennifer Noxon is a Communications Architect with market2world communications inc., Canada's tech PR and product launch agency.)
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