The Long Trail

(not a typo).

Want to guess what these musical acts have in common?

The Rolling Stones
The Eagles
Elton John
Paul McCartney

They each made more than $50 million last year, according to Forbes. They accounted for 40% of the top 10 acts.  The long trail is what happened.

Same with products like Quicken, websites like eBay and chefs like Wolfgang Puck.

We’re so busy celebrating the hit of the moment that we forget that the real profit often comes from the long trail.

It’s easy to persuade yourself to shortchange the design of a product, or your investment in its engineering, or to manipulate the launch to maximize the short-term box office appeal of opening weekend. But the long trail proves you wrong.

The web compounds long trail thinking. A website might spike with short term traffic hits, but a great website builds on its traffic, rises in its search rankings and continues to bring in traffic, year after year.

The long trail explains why so many unprofitable movies turn a profit when the DVD comes out. The Shawshank Redemption got seven Academy Award nominations when it was released, but disappointed at the box office. Now, after more than 1.3 million reviews at NetFlix, it is one of the most enduring DVD hits ever.

The long trail is a reminder to invest like your product might just be around in ten years.