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Hit Makers: How Things Become Popular



Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson puts pop culture under the lens of science to investigate what every business, every artist, every person looking to promote “brand me” is after: what makes a hit a hit.

HIT-MAKERS is a groundbreaking investigation into the most valuable currency of the 21st century: people’s attention. With insatiable curiosity, great reporting, and beguiling storytelling, Atlantic Senior Editor Derek Thompson uses the lens of economics to reveal the secret of what makes a hit a hit.

Thompson begins with a simple proposition: even though many number-one songs, blockbuster films, Internet memes, and ubiquitous apps seem to come out of nowhere, hits have a story and they operate by certain rules. There is a reason why some ideas catch on. But a perfectly constructed product isn’t enough to create a hit on the level of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. People have to encounter it. Exposure is the critical other half of the hit equation. So HIT-MAKERS explores two crucial questions:  Why do people like what they like? And how do popular ideas spread?

This is an especially complicated phenomenon in the 21st century because scarcity has yielded to abundance. The finite nature of the concert hall or the museum wall is now the endless Internet. The world of hits is more democratic than ever. It’s also much more unpredictable. So even though human attention has not evolved–our preferences remain guided by an interplay between the complex and the simple, the new and the familiar–capturing that attention is more challenging than ever.

From the rise of the Impressionist vanguard to the ubiquity of SportsCenter, from the global Star Wars franchise to Swedish-engineered pop music, Thompson leaves no pet rock unturned to tell the fascinating story of how culture happens.

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Praise

“Hit Makers blends historical lessons with technological & social insights to explain what makes culture tick, and hits happen.”   –Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution and Co-Founder of America Online

“Derek Thompson has long been one of the brightest new voices in American journalism. With HIT MAKERS, he becomes one of the brightest new voices in the world of non-fiction books. Ranging from Impressionist art to German lullabies to Game of Thrones, HIT MAKERS offers a fresh and compelling take on how the media function and how ideas spread.  As deftly written as it is keenly argued, this book — true to its title — is a hit.”—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of DRIVE and TO SELL IS HUMAN

“Enthralling– full of ‘aha’ moments about why some ideas soar and others never get off the ground. This book picks up where The Tipping Point left off.” — Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of ORIGINALS and GIVE AND TAKE

“Derek Thompson’s HIT MAKERS is a sharply observed history of the megahit, from the 13th-centuy tunic craze to the iPhone, tracing  the strange ever-changing mixture of genius, dumb luck, business savvy, and network math that turns an obscurity into a worldwide smash.” –Jordan Ellenberg, New York Times bestselling author of HOW NOT TO BE WRONG

“What makes one song hit, and another, flop, one book a success and the other, fodder for the discount bins? That’s the mystery Derek Thompson probes with his characteristic verve, wit, and insight in “Hit Makers.” It’s an engrossing read that doesn’t settle for easy answers, and one that seems destined to become one of the hits that Thompson so deftly analyzes.” —Maria Konnikova, New York Times bestselling author of THE CONFIDENCE GAME

“This book is brilliant, a fascinating exploration of the relationship between artistry and industry, the ways that everything from immigration to distribution helps create the popular imagination. You may never look at your favorite film or song the same way again. It should be required reading for anyone working in the popular arts.”Simon Kinberg, producer of The Martian, screenwriter and producer for the X-Men film franchises

“Derek Thompson’s Hit Makers is a terrific read—a sparkling combination of fascinating stories, cutting-edge science, and superb business advice. Just as he does when he writes for The Atlantic, Thompson shares more interesting ideas per paragraph than practically any other writer today. Hit Makers is a bible for anyone who’s ever tried to promote practically anything, from products, people, and ideas, to books, songs, films, and TV shows.”—Adam Alter, New York Times Bestselling author of Drunk Tank Pink and Irresistible

“I always read everything by Derek Thompson I see, and this book was no exception. Why things become popular is one of the most important questions in an ever-more networked world, and Derek Thompson’s *Hit Makers* is the best and most serious attempt to take a look at it.”—Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation and Marginal Revolution

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