Monday, July 27, 2009

14:59 left on the fame clock

A friend of mine writes an occasional blog on, well, whatever pops into his mind at the moment. He's done absolutely nothing to publicize it. In fact, he prefers anonymity, which is why I haven't provided a link. Occasionally people stumble across it anyway, typically once every day or so. Given the number of potential readers out there, that's a nearly perfect record of obscurity. He's even farther out on the long tail than I am.

A couple of years back, this friend posted an album review of the latest offering from a band with a fairly large cult following. Nothing much came of it, but even so it came to account for a significant portion of the site's traffic. Then, one day not too long ago, the post seemed to catch the attention of the band's fan base. In one day, that one post got hundreds of hits. Still not much compared to a major commercial site, but well more than the entire site had garnered in the previous year.

Of the hundreds of visitors, almost all bounced right back off the site. A few followed the tag for that band. Since there was only one post with that tag, this didn't get far. Few, if any, stayed to browse the other posts. Two left comments. The first completely disagreed with the review. The second completely agreed.

And that was it. The site has since settled back into obscurity. If he'd been concerned that a horde of fans was going to overwhelm the site and flood it with comments, that concern has passed.

The lesson here, I think, is that if the long tail idea has legs (interesting image, that), and a small site can become modestly profitable if only it can find its audience, it needs to focus tightly on its particular niche. A site dedicated to care and feeding of 1948 Oldsmobiles might well find a following of rabid Olds fanciers. A blog on anything and everything, done for the author's amusement, will pass largely unnoticed. My friend assures me this suits him fine.

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