Does the Long Tail Apply to the iPhone App Store?


Read this article the other day about the realities of making money with iPhone applications after reading this one about a developer making tons of dough. The truth is that most don’t make much money and the question that I have, is whether or not, Chris Anderson’s theory of the long tail will be applicable to the iPhone (or Android, Blackberry, Nokia) app store?

Anderson’s theory states that in an economy of abundance, no items will go unpurchased (don’t bother looking that word up; their ain’t one!). This is contrary to what is going on in the iPhone app store and it’s important to remember that we’re in the beginning of this transformation and most of the apps on the store are noise at best. I don’t remember reading this but, The long tail theory may be dependent upon the maturity of the online ecosystem. Anderson used Rhapsody as an example and online music, which is in general, fairly mature; assuming survival of course. It may also have to do with the fact that an app is a something that connotes activity while listening to music is passive (for the most part).

When I interviewed Dan Burcaw of DOUBLE ENCORE he believed that there would be 150,000 applications by the end of this year. Not sure when the app ecosystem will mature and I’ll be curious to see if the long tail applies.


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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently interested in artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and tattooing.