The so-called Long Tail effect is alive and well and apparently living in my computer. That's what I discovered last weekend, noting that services from Apple
Unless you were living under a rock, you know the Northeast had a powerful snowstorm last weekend. Although my hometown of Alexandria, Va., wasn't hit too hard, dicey road conditions and icy gale-force winds certainly didn't make shopping outdoors seem too appealing. So on Sunday, I made what my wallet might consider a big mistake: I opened up Apple's iTunes software.
I noted with interest that the iTunes Music Store has a beta feature called Just For You, which suggested albums I might be interested in based on past iTunes purchases. Was it accurate? You bet. I bought a few albums, EPs, and singles. (A related innovation called the MiniStore, which makes suggestions based on the song you have selected in your Music Library, debuted in the most recent version of the iTunes software.) A glutton for punishment, I moved on to Amazon and clicked on my personal store, which also listed recommendations based on past purchases. Did I bite? You bet.
Apparently I'm a poster child for the Long Tail, given the money I hand over to iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix
It's certainly not a new idea. I occasionally use a program on my computer called MyStrands, which analyzes iTunes playlists to generate recommendations. Meanwhile, there's been a lot of buzz around Fool HQ about an Internet-based service called Pandora, which has created The Music Genome project to make recommendations. Both services are free.
Of course, there's always a "but." There are privacy concerns inherent in any data collecting. Look at Google's
These types of offerings can represent a win/win between Internet retailers and their customers, offering an expanded universe of possibility for both. Such accurate recommendations add much more than convenience to Internet-based shopping. As long as the companies in question make sure they're very carefully creating their services and policies with a close eye on privacy concerns, the opportunities they're creating in e-commerce seem more exciting than ever before.
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Amazon.com and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.