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Publisher's Summary

Nothing "goes viral". If you think a popular movie, song, or app came out of nowhere to become a word-of-mouth success in today's crowded media environment, you're missing the real story. Each blockbuster has a secret history - of power, influence, dark broadcasters, and passionate cults that turn some new products into cultural phenomena. Even the most brilliant ideas wither in obscurity if they fail to connect with the right network, and the consumers that matter most aren't the early adopters but rather their friends, followers, and imitators - the audience of your audience. 

In his groundbreaking investigation, Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson uncovers the hidden psychology of why we like what we like and reveals the economics of cultural markets that invisibly shape our lives. Shattering the sentimental myths of hit making that dominate pop culture and business, Thompson shows quality is insufficient for success, nobody has "good taste", and some of the most popular products in history were one bad break away from utter failure. It may be a new world, but there are some enduring truths to what audiences and consumers want. People love a familiar surprise: a product that is bold yet sneakily recognizable. 

All businesses, artists, and people looking to promote themselves and their work want to know what makes some works so successful while others disappear. Hit Makers is a magical mystery tour through the last century of pop culture blockbusters and the most valuable currency of the 21st century - people's attention. 

From the dawn of impressionist art to the future of Facebook, from Etsy designers to the origin of Star Wars, Derek Thompson leaves no pet rock unturned to tell the fascinating story of how culture happens and why things become popular. 

In Hit Makers, Derek Thompson investigates: 

  • The secret link between ESPN's sticky programming and the The Weeknd's catchy choruses 
  • Why Facebook is the world's most important modern newspaper 
  • How advertising critics predicted Donald Trump 
  • The fifth grader who accidentally launched "Rock Around the Clock", the biggest hit in rock and roll history 
  • How Barack Obama and his speechwriters think of themselves as songwriters 
  • How Disney conquered the world - but the future of hits belongs to savvy amateurs and individuals 
  • The French collector who accidentally created the Impressionist canon 
  • Quantitative evidence that the biggest music hits aren't always the best 
  • Why almost all Hollywood blockbusters are sequels, reboots, and adaptations 
  • Why one year - 1991 - is responsible for the way pop music sounds today 
  • Why another year - 1932 - created the business model of film 
©2017 Derek Thompson (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr
  • North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 04-22-17

A lot more interesting than I expected...

There's certainly some science here - both interesting and obvious - but I don't think that alone would have made this book a good listen.
What I found much more interesting were the stories used to illustrate some of the points - which dive into art history, industrial design, politics and linguistics.
Some of the most up-to-date pop culture references will probably date this book quite quickly, but the historical parallels are timeless, and arguably more interesting.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Best Book Ever if You Want to Understand Poularity

What did you love best about Hit Makers?

Most books on what makes a hit are rubbish. So I was not expecting much from Derek Thompson's "Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction." As one who popularizes new ideas for a living, I don't expect to pick up more than a couple of ideas while studying a book that moves my brain into thinking more about a topic. I was wrong. I totally underestimated the depth of understanding in this book. Instead of "cracking a code" and pretending there's some magic formula, Thompson traced the path of hits back to their origins, interviewed unlikely contributors and found the inception of ideas. This is the only way we can see the triggers that might contribute to making something a hit. Best explanation of why "viral marketing" is a fraud, best Disney history and several patterns I recognized in case studies outside of the book. I'm using this knowledge already.

What other book might you compare Hit Makers to and why?

Cialdini's "Influence" was groundbreaking for setting out 6 principles but is readable because of the stories shared. "Hit Makers" delivers on the stories.. and does well on explains these and other principles

What does Derek Thompson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Always best to hear the book in the author's voice. Usually, it's a compromise. In this case, Thompson's deliver was great.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

Brahms best work was derivative.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • J'oli
  • San Diego
  • 03-25-18

Starts of saying “The Tipping Point” book was wrong but then...

The book starts off saying “The Tipping Point” book was wrong but then ends by drawing the same conclusion Gladwell did in “The Tipping Point.”

If you’ve read “Outliers” and “The Tipping Point,” then save yourself a credit. If you haven’t read any of these books, I’ll save you 3 credits: going “viral” comes down to who you know, who knows about you, starting with serving a niche market, and luck. There, I just saved you about 24 hours of reading time. You’re welcome.

Ps: I was torn between 3 stars and 4 for an overall rating. At the last minute, I went with 4 stars because the author (who is also the narrator) seems like a nice guy.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A bad impersonation of Malcolm Gladwell anecdotes

Malcolm Gladwell had his heyday around 10 years ago, until everyone caught on to his nonsense hypothesis based on narrow anecdotes. The formula is always the same, quaint or interesting vignette to prove a broad point that actually isn't true at all, but gets infused into the culture like a virus.

Here, Derek Thompson decides to take that formula for himself and the results are often painful. His signature is a level of saccharin sweet anecdotes to sell his ideas that Gladwell didn't have. The audiobook reading is even more syrupy as you can tell in the author's voice he just knows he's about to melt your heart.

There were a few salient points in the book, but the fluff to content ratio margin is untenable. The absurdity builds to a climax when we're introduced to a crowdfunded rapper presented as kid with 'no opportunities' who we are then informed gave the commencement speech at Harvard. How did he overcome such adversity?!?!

As is the norm with these books, a little scrutiny makes them melt, leaving a few morsels of knowledge behind.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Super insightful. Loads of fun and useful facts.

I’m very happy I chose this audio book. It has helped me engage in conversations which talk about the topics around a persons attention and psychology. Great to listen at 1.25x speed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great resource for creatives striving for success!

As an educator, this book has been a great resource for motivating students to understand their audience and the history of 'hits'! I reference this book almost every day at the college where I teach— it's an important concept for creators who want to make great art AND want to connect with their niche (and, want to make money). Context (and familiarity) are essential in order to connect with others! Love this book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting Read

If you’re a marketer or simply curious about how something becomes popular, you’ll love this book! Derek uses amazing examples from as early as the 1600s to as recent as 2016 to explain his thesis. The chapters can be a bit long and mundane from time to time but ultimately kept my attention and spiked my interest enough to want to finish the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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High precision reading of pop culture's pulse

So much to bookmark/clip, you'll be revisiting for a long time to come. makes sense of the seemingly random popularity contests that society brings to light! Ultra smooth transitions provide thorough cohesive comprehension for any listener. Perfect blend of real-life situations meeting lab-tested theories, yielding useful insights. Must-read, indeed!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Answered questions I've always wondered about...

...and answered question I hadn't thought of. As well, it confirmed theories I had. I wish there had been more focus on books and not just music, art, etc. Still, very interesting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Insightful. Performance was better than I expected

I feel like I understand the world more after reading this. It wasn't too long and got straight to the information. I feel as though Thompson used the theories he outlined to make this book a HIT. I have no complaints at all and I plan on listening to this one a few more times.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful