Featured Author: Niche Business Theorist Chris Anderson (Think 3D Printing)

Whether you’re interested in 3D printing or selling niche products on the internet, Chris Anderson is a good introduction to your business model.

Anderson is most famous for his book The Long Tail.

Here’s the idea.

For decades, the marketplace revolved around strong demand and limited supply. This dynamic translated into the mass experience and the big hit. The long tail – that part of the graph line after the big hit spike, was uneconomical and difficult to pursue. Due to the realities of production and distribution, keeping niche products around was uneconomical.

Well, those days are gone.

Production is much cheaper and there’s more supply. New models of distribution (as in one big national Internet store) mean cheaper warehousing – which means an explosion of niche demand. And the development of mass number of differentiated products means people can buy stuff they actually love – instead of settling for the one big hit that everybody liked OK, but few actually loved.

Chris Anderson also just wrote The Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.

The advent of do-it-yourself software and especially 3D printing could remake American Manufacturing and small business.

Suddenly, machines and software with vast capacity can be acquired by individuals or very small companies.

Everyone is having visions of  independent living or at least becoming an entrepreneur. But what exactly is the model for getting this to actually work economically?

The upshot is no one quite knows although anecdotal evidence suggests that it will lead to possibly a host of new smaller companies specializing in niche products (the reduced cost of production and sunk costs renders this possible). Anderson gives some examples of these in the book: a company that makes products for Lego that Lego won’t make itself, and an aerospace firm.

And while the heroic individual alone with his 3-D printer probably can’t happen, some people do envision creating self-sustained communities or more local economies.

It’s exciting to imagine a world continuing to evolve beyond mass production where very specific needs can be envisioned and manufactured.

This also might help solve the stubborn high unemployment problem

All in all, a good introduction to a very important topic.