A friend got some feedback on a new project proposal recently. "It will have trouble standing out on a shelf that's already crowded."
The thing is, every shelf in every store and especially online is crowded. The long tail made the virtual shelves infinitely long, which means that every record, every widget, every job application, every book, every website, every non-profit… all of it… is on a crowded shelf.
And the problem with a crowded shelf is that your odds of getting found and getting picked are slim indeed, slimmer than ever before.
Which is why 'the shelf' can't be your goal. If you need to get picked from the shelf/slush pile/transom catchbasin then you've already lost.
The only opportunity (which of course, is the best opportunity ever for most of us) is to skip depending on being found on the shelf and go directly to people who care. To skip the shelf and get talked about. To skip the shelf and be the one and only dominator in a category of one, a category that couldn't really exist if you weren't in it.
That's hard to visualize, because it doesn't match what you've been taught and what our culture has (until recently) celebrated, but it's what's on offer now.
Shelf space is available to all of us, but by itself, it's insufficient for much of anything.