What I Learned About The Long Tail And How I Saw It In Singapore

November 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

photo by You Need Style

I’m very late into reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why The Future Of Business Is Selling Less Of More, and I it’s one of the best (if not the best) I’ve read this year. All through the books were “aha” moments that make so much sense when you look at media and commerce on the Internet, and the physical world.
For those who’ve been preached to death about the Long Tail, please bear with me while I paraphrase Chris’ explanation of The Long Tail. The way I understood it, economies are shifting from domination by hit-based, one size fits all, to the emergence and success of niche goods that make up the true majority of any given market.
Three forces make this possible:

  • Democratized production
  • Democratized distribution
  • Supply and Demand connected

The Long Tail Of Temple Worshipers

As a result of reading the book, I attempted to see long tail effects around me, and voila, saw a mini-long tail story in the local Straits Times yesterday.
For the most part, Buddhists in Singapore head to well-established temples in Singapore, the same way Muslims go to mosques, Christians to their churches, and Indians to the Indian temples.

With Buddhist temples however, Yen Feng and Feng Zengkun realized that many micro-temples are appearing in numbers throughout Singapore’s famous red-light district, Geylang. These have appeared for a number of reasons:

  • Strict zoning laws for institutions registered as temples per se. (Scarcity of physical space) Micro-temples apply for more flexible zoning as associations instead
  • Micro temples cater to the seniors who are unable to climb high temple steps that are a feature of the larger temples. (There is no one-size fits all solution)
  • Having a large body of micro-temples in one area serves the varying needs of the community. (The same way CDBaby and ITunes does this for music fans online)

This shouldn’t be a surprise in the late 2000s, when people are exploring their own unique interests, rejecting the majority / mass media solution of “one-size-fits-all”. Micro-temples are a lot easier to set up as compared to the humongous temples we’ve seen around Singapore. We are seeing transportation getting efficient day-by-day, with the upcoming Circle Line and electronic bus-reporting times at bus stops. Having micro-services in one area adds too convenience too.
Chris Anderson simplifies the rules to creating thriving Long Tail businesses as:

  • Make everything available
  • Help me find it

Which can be expanded into:

Lowering your costs

  • Move inventory way in… or way out
  • Let customers do the work

Thinking niche

  • One distribution doesn’t fit all
  • One product doesn’t fit all
  • One price doesn’t fit all

Losing control

  • Share information
  • Think “and” not “or”
  • Trust the market to do your job
  • Understand the power of free

Will this happen for the other religious groups in Singapore? Micro-churches, mosques and Indian temples?  The use of Facebook, Twitter, Meetup.com, and other social media? We’ve already seen the emergence of churchgoers attending services online, so it might become an emergent trend, probably by word of mouth.

I do think Geylang is Singapore’s most colorful quarter. For friends traveling in Singapore, stop by if you’ve only got one day here.


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