[Navigated to by way of Steven Johnson’s Blog. Johnson is the author of Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter which I read recently.]
Quoting from Wikipedia:
The phrase The Long Tail, as a proper noun, was first coined by Chris Anderson. Beginning in a series of speeches in early 2004 and culminating with the publication of a Wired Magazine article in October 2004, Anderson described the effects of the long tail on current and future business models. Anderson observed that products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. Examples of such mega-stores include Amazon.com, Netflix and even Wikipedia.
Meaning that if you’re into some obscure punk band that no one but you and two people in Idaho have heard of, some businesses with large distribution channels can provide them to you, and their business on small demand items can exceed business for large demand items. Which explains who so many obscure movies are now being released on DVD, where there’s now a market for them via Internet companies that don’t need to provide a physical store to house them.