Tailored Long Tail

I happened to run across two articles yesterday that mesh in an odd sort of way.

Chris Anderson writes in his blog: Is the Long Tail Full of Crap? Chris has for a while now been writing about the long tail of distribution. Take movies, for example.  Traditionally, there are only so many movie screens and so much shelf space in video stores.  Movies that are popular enough to draw a mass audience get on the screens and on the shelves.  A movie doesn’t have to be as popular to get on the shelves as on the screen, but the idea is the same: beyond the fat head of distributed movies there’s a long tail of movies that fewer people want to see and that don’t get on the shelves. Yet many movies in the back catalog are high quality, and some people would want to see them if they could get them, as for example Netflix has demonstrated. The total value of the long tail is probably as high as that of the short head. Chris’s current post is largely about filters to pick out of the long tail what a given potential audience would consider quality.

Meanwhile, Clay Shirky in his blog writes about Situated Software. He gives examples of how throwing away the Web School virtues of scalability, generality, and completeness lets Internet product designers take advantage of small groups as testers, customers, and reputation systems, thus building small products fast that make their small group customers very happy.

It seems to me that Clay Shirky is talking about building quality products for the long tail; quality products that are already filtered for their target customers.

What does all this have to do with Internet business risk management? Maybe one way of dealing with risks outside the firewall is to tailor an enterprise’s (or customer’s) Internet connection for maximal utility and least risk for that particular customer, maybe by selecting the best-fitting connection, and maybe by constructing an insurance policy to cover problems that are likely to occur, especially where it doesn’t fit so well. Maybe the best way to build Internet insurance isn’t to make a few big policies; maybe it’s better to tailor a policy for each customer’s Internet situation.

Now tailoring has connotations of handmade, and there probably would be a professional services aspect to this. But what if that aspect consisted largely of presenting a few automatically-generated tailored policies for the customer to choose from?