Home » Enterprise 2.0 » Leveraging the long tail “iTunes Store”

Leveraging the long tail “iTunes Store”

This blog will look at  the concept “Leveraging the long tail”, the seventh of eight patterns as defined by Tim O’Reilly. The internet is like a virtual shopping mall, with a wide range of products for sale.  We are beginning to see companies look not just to sale certain products but have a wide range of variety to cater for anyone (a niche market). Businesses are now using the “Long Tail” pattern.

Small sites make up the bulk of the internet’s content; narrow niches make up the bulk of internet’s the possible applications. Therefore: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head. – O’Reilly

The Long Tail, in a nutshell

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare. – Chris Anderson

So one company that has used this pattern effectively is Apple, the apple iTunes store has a wide range of music,app and books to choose from. By applying this pattern the apple iTunes store has provided benefits such as increase in capturing a wider variety of audience and an increase in customer chose. 

Here are best practices that ebay has adopted in relation to practices that  Professor Jason Watson’s from QUT   pointed out during “Leveraging the long tail” lecture.

(1) Build on the driving forces of the Long Tail

¨Driven by three forces
1.Democratized tools of production – as iTunes continues to grow apple has adopted more applications other then music, through the popularity of smart phones apps, ebooks etc have now been added to the iTunes store growing list of applications users can buy/download.
2.Decreased cost of consumption by virtue of democratized distribution – iTunes itself is free, some apps are free to download, this brings more customers to use the iTunes store.
3. New forms of connecting supply and demand – Organizations are now using the iTunes store to drive their business and attract customers. People using iTunes store now have a wide range of selections not only limited to a few choices that they are interested in. This drives business from hits to niches a new market

2) Use algorithmic data management to match supply and demand

The iTunes store uses algorithmic data management to match users purchases/searches to recommend apps/music/books users might be interested in.


(3) Use an architecture of participation to match supply and demand

Customers and owners can discuss/share their thoughts on applications on the apps store.  For example, reviews can be made through comments on a particular app. Ratings is also a way iTunes store allows customers to look at if the product is worth purchasing.

(4) Leverage customer self-service to cost effectively reach the entire web

This practice has been done by iTunes, users can sign in their account, view their wish list, recommendations etc
However, it would be good it users view other peoples download history, and share what they have downloaded with the iTunes community. This would allow customers to manage their own accounts gives them greater control and information.

(5) Leverage the low-cost advantages of being online

iTunes store has started of by making the right move, making the store an online and not a shelf store.  This not only a low-cost advantage but also brings into play online/viral marketing. Many people use iTunes now with the huge growth in smartphone users.


In conclusion, the iTunes store offers many products for the public. They have demonstrated effective use of the 5 practices that helps them Leverage the long tail. Not only to cater for a certain category of customers but a wide niche market.


– Watson, J. 2010 – INB(N)347 Week 9 – Lecture slides

16 thoughts on “Leveraging the long tail “iTunes Store”

  1. Hi Andy,

    iTunes has been really leveraging the long tail for a while now with its varieties of apps that targets a wide audience that extends into the niche market. The iTunes suggestion algorithm is also one of the best. With so many information available, its a very efficient algorithm that suggest and recommend items for you. One thing that restricts them from reaching a wider audience is the closed system architecture of supporting more towards the Apple products. In terms of the ratings, how much do you trust the rating given to an app or song?


    • Hi Sukshan,

      Well in regards to your question about ratings, i guess its up to the person, some people may look at downloading an app or song based on say a 4 star or above rating whilst some would just download it regardless what the rating is. I guess reading comments about the products would help as well.


      • Comments are something quite difficult to judge in my opinion since its something that can be created by anyone. I even came across some apps that tried to steal your information and the rating was a 5 star. I looked closely at it and found that the rating was false making the app to gain so much false advertising.


  2. Hi Andy,

    With what Sukshan mentioned above on ratings, i too have a question. Every applications are rated differently. Is there any common ratings that are shared between all of the different types of applications?

    As you mentioned that itunes is a place where business trust itunes to help attract customers, so it is a platform base similar to amazon where there are tons of different authors or publishers which if were to put itunes in this scenario. Itunes is amazon whereas the business that leverage itunes are the authors or publishers in amazon.

    I think itunes is a great app 😉 Cheers

    • Hi Jerfen,

      I think applications are rated based on users that download them and want to leave feedback about the product they have downloaded. Itunes is great because you can review the product rating and reviews by people before downloading it!


  3. Hi Andy

    I agree with you that Apple use this pattern effectively. In my opinion, Apple is one of the leader in Web 2.0 and always try to find a way to satisfy their customers. I was first very frustrate with iTune around 8 year ago which limit me from many things. Right now iTune has a lot more services and products. If you are an iPhone and Mac users, it will be easy to link your media files across devices with iTune. iTune also offer a lot of niche products which you can buy them digitally. I really like the direction of this pattern since it give me more opportunity to get what I like the most.

    Prapat W.

    • Hi Prapat,

      Yes, itunes has changed alot now it the iTunes store itself offers a wide range of applications/songs etc

      This niche market offers users a wide variety of products with the huge increase in smartphone usage.


  4. Hi,

    Great post about iTunes Store! It is true that you can find a great quantity of songs and products on this application and you can also buy songs from little groups who are not very popular yet, and so iTunes can target the niches. But do you know how can it propose and find those small artists?


    • Hi Audrey,

      Do you mean how we find out about these less popular groups? Well iTunes store target niches, so even though less popular artist arent popular people could still find them.


  5. Hey Andy!

    Very interesting post, iTunes has certainly been responsible for making online distribution of intellectual property (music, TV shows, etc.) a mainstream phenomenon. By making legal online distribution of content a viable alternative to pirating, iTunes may have also paved the way for transforming the tail into the head in the near future.

    Best wishes,

    Bidah Alkhaldi

    Check out my blog @http://abidalalkhaldi.wordpress.com/

  6. Thanks for a great post, Andy.
    I also thought the iTunes store was a good example of the ‘long tail’ of sales. It clearly has made the tail longer with more products, fatter with more customers and more efficient by connecting the customers to the products. They also have products that cost virtually nothing to make, deliver and promote so they are hard to beat.
    What do you see as their biggest threats and issues?

    • Hi Thanks for reading, i believe their biggest threats/issues are their rating/comment system, i mean anyone could post fake ratings/comments. That being said, more comments are probably there abouts being honest but there will be those that arent. How itunes will deal with that i am not too sure at this point.

  7. Hey there Andy!

    Great post and iTunes is a good example of the long tail pattern! What I love about iTunes is that it doesn’t just sell music, it sells apps, movies, tv shows etc that allows them to target niche markets!

    I also quite like how they have Top 10 Songs on iTunes because I can browse which songs are popular in Australia. I hear the songs on the radio but forget the name but I find them easily on the charts.

    Kind regards, Laura 🙂

  8. Hi Andy
    You are right Apple iTune has used this pattern effectively. iTunes has been licensed for the reproduction of the non-copyrighted materials and materials he user has legally been allowed for reproducing. iTunes has been the free application, which lets us to organize along with play the digital music and also video on our computer. This has also been the store, which has each & everything we require to be entertained. It makes that a perfect place for listening, watching, and reading, playing, exploring and also shopping.


    • Hi Sami, yup the itunes store bring a wide niche market for the public, like you mentioned it is a perfect place for listening, watching and exploring.


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