On the evolution of online tourism communities - Network battle or long tail niches?


Even though the emergence or respectively the construction of online communities is of great interest

for scientists and community engineers, only few empirical data has been presented on community

growth. This article starts with a reflection on possible growth curves of virtual communities. It

contrasts a network externality perspective that produces clear winners and losers in a market with a

long tail perspective that also allows small niche products to be successful. These considerations are

empirically tested with a sample of 74 travel communities whose numbers of registered members were

recorded at two measure points. The results show that online travel communities develop into an

archetypical long tail. A very small number of communities with exceedingly high numbers of

members are accompanied by a vast amount of communities with only few members. An analysis of

the long tail, however, reveals that the community tail is not dead but is populated by a large number

of especially regional communities that show considerable growth rates.

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