Leveraging the long tail with eBay

Leveraging the long tail is about exactly that, using the extreme popularity of generic products available on the internet that sell in high volume and levering that strength to expose more specific niche products that do not sell nearly as well with only limited popularity. The beauty of the “long tail” is that there are  a lot of these niche products – in fact they make up the majority of shop fronts on the internet.

Leveraging the long tail

Chris Anderson’s economic model of the Long Tail discusses the now diminished need “to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers”. With now infinite shelf space, low cost of materials and production courtesy of the internet, businesses are realising it’s simply a matter of exposure. So, how best do you leverage off the popularity of the best selling products on the internet? How are businesses able to sell their niche products that suit only very limited clientele and stay afloat? Remain profitable?

Tim O’Reilly outlines the best practices for leveraging the long tail in his seventh web 2.0 pattern, and this week I will examine eBay, the most popular online retailer in Australia an excellent example of these in effect.


Build on the driving forces of the Long Tail

eBay allows its users to list almost anything for sale relatively cheaply and with a minimum of fuss. It caters for almost any item allowing listings limited only by the imagination of its users facilitating an almost innumerable product base. Customers are drawn to eBay by cheap prices, the chance to win at auction or buy outright and possibly, most enticingly,  by the possibility of finding that item that they just cannot find anywhere else. eBay delivers hits to niches by first drawing in clientele with extremely competitive pricing for popular, generic products then offering then facilitates niche sales by custom tailoring searches for maximum exposure.

Use algorithmic data management to match supply and demand

Whenever an item is bought, whether is is via an auction, fixed price or classified sale, eBay displays similar items for the buyers perusal. When a buyer is searching for an item that is possibly generic in nature and arrives at a specific sellers page eBay displays all other items available by that seller. A user could be lead down a very niche path from seller to similar items (and repeat) until the ideal item is found. It is possible for a user to search for an item only once, then 10 sellers and different stores later – eBay delivers the final desired result specifically tailoring the list of item results to the user at every stage.


Use an architecture of participation to match supply and demand

eBay offers a feedback system where sellers can be ranked based on their past performance and quality of their items which allows buyers to always make informed decisions and purchase with confidence. When a search is carried out items are listed in an order of relevance to the search term by default so ideally the user receives the best matching item as the first result. In addition the results may be further sorted by the user selecting a relevant filter such as (lowest price first). If eBay does cannot return the exact item the user searches for it returns similar items in order of relevance.

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

eBay affords the user complete control of their accounts. User are able to list an item for sale on eBay in a matter of minutes (or seconds with the right app) through not only the website it self but also through many third party applications and the mobile apps. Users are able to purchase items, pay for items, and record feedback all from their very own account centre with the knowledge that eBay guarantees safety through PayPal where money can be refunded if a seller is fraudulent. The live chat support feature, extensive support articles, customisable user portals, and readily available API for developers contribute to reduced costs of operation.


Leverage the low-cost advantages of being online

The filtering, aggregation and search features offered by eBay for its 112.3 million users in conjunction with the self service model it is based on ensures that it reaches to the very edges of the spectrum of user interests and is coded appropriately to be effectively integrated into external searches. Indeed, it is so good that an item typed into a Google search box can yield a relevant result from eBay. Further, eBays involvement with extensive partner organisations ensures that advertising and marketing costs are kept to a minimum.

Further Reading:

Debating the long tail

Long Tail 101

Rethinking the Long Tail Theory: How to define ‘Hits’ and ‘Niches’

What does niche marketing mean?


Ubiquitous Computing: Software above the level of a single device.

This week we discuss Tim O’Reilly’s fifth web 2.0 pattern: Software above the level of a single device. 

We are a world that is fast evolving towards being totally digitally connected. With the adoption of IPv6 the number of devices that can connect to the internet simultaniously increases almost innumerably to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. O’Reillys fifth pattern discusses best practices for harnessing the technolgical breakthroughs of our time to develop software that connects to the internet seemlessly over multiple devices.


Youtube is web 2.0 that is so popular it is almost synonymous with the word “Internet”. Since it’s inception in Feb 2005 YouTube has been about video content that is for the people, by the people, so it is not at all surprising that its developers are well aware of the importance of software above the level of a single device. The reality is that content wise YouTube can be used as a legitimate resource for almost every facet of our lives – work, play, health, education and relationships. So, it makes sense that YouTube has evolved from offering access in the form of a centralised website to being as adaptable to our new technology as we are, offering apps for almost every platform. Let’s look at how YouTube adheres to to O’Reiley’s best practices.


Design from the start to share data across devices, servers, and networks

From the outset YouTube has strived to offer content accessibility through  providing HTML code along with its videos to enable easy embedding on any web page.

More recently:

One click sharing to almost all social networking platforms including facebook, twitter and google+, which expands on and compliments YouTube’s own ranking and commenting system.

  • YouTube Mobile – launched in 2007 for smartphones utilising RTSP streaming for video, was then relaunched in 2010 using HTML 5 eliminating the need to use the slower adobe flash player and optimising controls for touch screen.
  • June 2007 – Transcoded data to H.264 format in order to achieve compatibility with Apple iPhone, iPod touch and Apple TV
  • 2008 – 2009 – Youtube realises more of its users are accessing from set top boxes and full size screens so releases YouTube For TV and then later YouTubeXL
  • Available as a stand alone app for Apple iOS 5 / iOS 6 since September 2012 when it was dropped as a preloaded app.
  • Tailored applictions  for Playstation 3, Tivo, Xbox live, & Wii

Since day one it is very obvious that YouTube has had its finger on the pulse of its users viewing trends and has attempted to harness the latest technology to make data more available & accessible to users.


Extend Web 2.0 to devices

YouTube offers applictions for almost all of the popular devices including iOS, Android, Xbox Live / 360, Playstation 3, Wii & Tivo and comes pre-packaged in the proprietry software of many smart TV’s, media streaming & cable provider boxes.

Use the power of the network to make the edge smarter

YouTube is able to tailer the viewing experience to your device through smart optimisation of the video bitrate, file format and clientside code to ensure compatibility with multiple devices usually via an app. A good example here is YouTube automatically rendering videos in much lesser resolution for smartphones, dramatically lessening the amount of data that needs to be transferred.

Leverage devices as data and rich media sources

Many smartphones and video cameras have the ability to shoot video and upload directly to YouTube through the relevant application as long as they have access to the internet.

Make one-click peer-production a priority

Almost all devices that have the ability to shoot video and connect to the internet can upload to YouTube in a single click. Often this will occur through utilising third party software and not necessarily an official YouTube app.


Further Reading:

Learn all about YouTube via Wikipedia

Apple drops the YouTube app in iOS 6 

Evolution of YouTube : Beginning of age of personal media

How to share, embed and link YouTube videos

O’Reilly’s 5th Pattern: Software above the level of a single device

I’m not just surfing the net…I am legitmately being productive… with web 2.0!

Web 2.0 = Greater productivity

This week I will be discussing how I have harnessed web 2.0 in my every day life to make me a more productive human being!

Let’s take for example that horrid, horrid combination of words “Group” & “meetings” *shudder* Yes, they are painful, but also unfortunately a necessary evil at universities around the world.  What if we didn’t have to meet up every week though? What if it was possible for all group members to work on the same document, at the same time, in the same place, without leaving their bedrooms (or family rooms, or cars, or boats). It isn’t that long ago that this would have been merely fanciful daydreaming but, through the utilisation of web 2.0 applications like dropbox  and Skype, we are able to do just that!

Drop box is far more than just an application that allows you to share documents. It is cloud hosted space that is yours, for free. I have downloaded the optional application that runs in windows (with a windows explorer feel) but you can use it via any web browser, or even download the app for android or iOS. When you sign up you are allocated 2GB but you can earn more space by simply spreading the word and referring your friends.  Drop box allows me to invite friends to share folders and all associated content (music, videos, pics, games, any data) and notifies me when an item is added or altered in one of my shared folders. I have used dropbox for every group assignment I have ever submitted and saved myself countless unnecessary trips to university and houses of other group members. I cannot rate this application highly enough!

Ok, so you have the document thing sorted but there are still issues you’d prefer to sort out face to face. Not a problem, use Skype. With a $20 dollar webcam and any microphone and speakers your computer is transformed into a fully fledged video conferencing suite. Through skype you can see one, or multiple contacts and communicate in  a way that resembles actually being in the same room. I relied very heavily on skype for preparation for a consulting competition I entered last semester, and won. I  know that without it we would not have had the chance to practice as a team nearly as often.

As I inserted this picture I thought to myself “really?, do I really need to tell people about this?” I think that in itself is true testament to face book’s place at the top of the social networking tree for most users. Officially it is rated as the number one site by nearly everyone you can think of including the washington post. But why? I have to admit I was among the slow adopters, I have never really been the type of person to do something just because everyone else was doing it. I eventually got a Facebook account in mid 2010 and wondered what had taken me so long. I now have a large network that I communicate with regularly. I keep track of University group assignments through the groups feature, I keep in contact with many old friends that otherwise would not be part of my life, and have actually gained employment through a friend of a friend that I met for the first time through face book. I am able to establish what people are up to in their lives by scanning the facebook feed and if I want to announce something I have an instant audience. It is basically every friend you have ever had at a glance, and that is why I love it.

RSS Readers


Web 2.0 tools and applications provide a plethora of information, sometimes too much to get through in the time I have to scan the different networks I am connected to. To solve this problem I use an RSS reader and you can read about those here. The way I look at my RSS feed is like a filter, I am able to tag what I am interested in and get that information only. I might be interested to know if a work colleague has joined another network via linkedin but care little about Kate baking a cake on the weekend. It really is that simple and saves me a lot of time.


The Instant Messengers

For me there has really only ever been two, first ICQ and then later, much later MSN (and of course facebook chat). ICQ was popular in the United States and Europe in the early 2000’s but it’s popularity slowly tapered off because it was not packaged with windows. Personally, I think it was a better instant messaging tool than the MSN messenger of it’s day – do any of you remember the ‘oh oh’ ICQ notification sound? I utilise instant messengers because they allow for no fuss, limited contact list communication and I find these work best when I am strapped for time or want to contact someone specific, if and only if they are online at that moment.  You have set people that you have invited to become part of your lists and are notified when they are online and can chat . It’s simple, it’s old school and it’s effective. In my opinion these relatively basic tools paved the way for more complex social networking like Facebook, Skype and dropbox.

I increase my productivity through being aware!

Not everyone likes the same things. I am sure we can agree there, so in your group of friends, your university peers, even your work colleagues you will notice that some people use some web 2.0 tools and applications that others would not even consider downloading. Why? … Why is winter cold? People like different things so I make myself available to everyone. I keep up-to-date with what is out there, I know what people use, and I know what I should have installed to connect with the people and places I want to connect with.

Without out web 2.0 tools like those listed above  there is little doubt in my mind that I would have studied something other than IT. It was that social overlap, that feeling of accomplishment, building something, creating something, sharing something that spawned my love of everything ICT. Without utilising web 2.0 tools throuought my university career I would have had to approach assignments in a very different fashion and have no doubt that my GPA would be far less impressive.