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Hit Makers

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Hit Makers

The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

Talks at Google,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How do you make a hit product, song or idea? Start with two principles.

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Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Applicable


You may assume that ideas rise to popularity through countless human interactions. If so, you’ve fallen for the “viral myth.” In his best-selling book Hit Makers and this shrewd, useful lecture with the same title, Atlantic editor Derek Thompson explains why people “equate volume with veracity” and how broadcasters can make it seem that a viral idea has spread socially. getAbstract widely recommends this modern-day guide to making or understanding a “hit.”


People are sentimental about “hits” – the films, memes and music they enjoy most. Though modern culture pushes what’s trendy and fresh, the human mind seeks the familiar and scorns the glaringly new. A hidden nostalgia often informs consumers’ enjoyment of new products. Thus, “familiarity over novelty” is the first tenet of popularity. The second tenet is that distribution outweighs substance. “Viral” is a deceptive label for popular content. Viruses pass between individuals, gathering speed across a million one-to-one interactions toward pandemic. The “viral myth” says that ideas follow a similar course to fame. In fact, they spread...

About the Speaker

Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson writes chiefly about economics and the media.

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