Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER 

A Book of the Year Selection for Inc. and Library Journal

“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

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.

Every business, every artist, every person looking to promote themselves and their work wants 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 twenty-first century—people’s attention.

From the dawn of impressionist art to the future of Facebook, from small 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 today’s most important newspaper
·       How advertising critics predicted Donald Trump
·       The 5th 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
·       How data scientists proved that “going viral” is a myth
·       How 19th century immigration patterns explain the most heard song in the Western Hemisphere
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About the author

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, where he writes about economics and the media. He is a regular contributor to NPR's "Here and Now" and appears frequently on television, including CBS and MSNBC. He lives in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Feb 7, 2017
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781101980347
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Industries / Entertainment
Social Science / Media Studies
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 2008, I was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, Type I, featuring psychotic manic episodes characterized by thoughts of grandeur, delusions, and hallucinations. Often when I open up about that to someone who knows me, I get, "What's that like?"

I guess I don't exactly fit their perception of someone with a mental health issue. I'm not like that person they see in the media, the one who lives with something like bipolar disorder and all its negative stereotypes and stigma. I like those conversations I get to have with them afterward to try and explain what it's like for me to go manic, to show them a peek behind the curtain into what I experience when I'm psychotic.

But the main reason I like the conversations is that I know it's nothing like they think it is. They come in with this idea that mental health issues, including psychosis, is a cookie-cutter diagnosis. That somehow we're the same as the people they see in the media committing unthinkable acts. But for most us out there fighting, it's nothing like that.

So, what I've decided to do is try and recreate those conversations for you by writing a piece of fiction about what it's like for me to have a manic episode. I wanted to show you, to the best of my limited literary skill, what it's like to experience psychotic elements that blur the line between fantasy and reality—taking you into "the Spin," where my manic life is chaotic, hectic, unpredictable, and seemingly out of control.

Contrary to popular belief, my psychosis does not make me evil. In fact, when I'm manic, I believe I'm fighting evil for a good cause. Very much like other manics, my mania is filled with a shitload of spiritual elements and symbolism. I've taken elements from these episodes and layered them on top of a favorite story of mine. I hope this will convey some sense of what it's like in my manic mind right before I get committed.

Like manic episodes that can come and go seemingly when they will, this story doesn't have a traditional beginning, middle, and end. During my first manic episode, I went to bed fine one night and awoke seeing and feeling such shit that I thought someone had drugged me with hallucinogens. The next couple of weeks felt like a couple of hours, with that story coming to an abrupt end when I came to in the suicide watch wing of the psych ward.

This story is short and hopefully comes at you fast, with no real answers in the end, leaving you with only a weird, ambivalent anticipation of the psychosis you know is coming at you in the next manic episode. The same feeling many manics have after they come back down.

I also talk to myself constantly when I'm manic, so you will see a lot of internal dialogue to give you a sense of that state of mind. One last thing: I really wanted to imitate the feeling of my mania running wild in my mind, so I added short bursts of mixed memories from my past episodes—manic flashbacks. This also ties all the episodes together, just as the episodes during my psychosis in real life are tied together.

I've planted a few other surprises to give you as close to a manic experience I can. My hope is that this story will help change the negative stigma and stereotypes that are still strongly out there about mental health issues. I hope that showing what my psychosis feels like will help others out there to keep fighting theirs as well.

Perception is reality, and we need to start trying to change that toward the positive for mental health issues. This is my contribution to that cause. So, without further bullshitting: This is what that's like.

"The closer the new media future gets, the further victory appears." --Michael Wolff

This is a book about what happens when the smartest people in the room decide something is inevitable, and yet it doesn’t come to pass. What happens when omens have been misread, tea leaves misinterpreted, gurus embarrassed?

Twenty years after the Netscape IPO, ten years after the birth of YouTube, and five years after the first iPad, the Internet has still not destroyed the giants of old media. CBS, News Corp, Disney, Comcast, Time Warner, and their peers are still alive, kicking, and making big bucks. The New York Times still earns far more from print ads than from digital ads. Super Bowl commercials are more valuable than ever. Banner ad space on Yahoo can be bought for a relative pittance.

Sure, the darlings of new media—Buzzfeed, HuffPo, Politico, and many more—keep attracting ever more traffic, in some cases truly phenomenal traffic. But as Michael Wolff shows in this fascinating and sure-to-be-controversial book, their buzz and venture financing rounds are based on assumptions that were wrong from the start, and become more wrong with each passing year. The consequences of this folly are far reaching for anyone who cares about good journalism, enjoys bingeing on Netflix, works with advertising, or plans to have a role in the future of the Internet.

Wolff set out to write an honest guide to the changing media landscape, based on a clear-eyed evaluation of who really makes money and how. His conclusion: The Web, social media, and various mobile platforms are not the new television. Television is the new television.

We all know that Google and Facebook are thriving by selling online ads—but they’re aggregators, not content creators. As major brands conclude that banner ads next to text basically don’t work, the value of digital traffic to content-driven sites has plummeted, while the value of a television audience continues to rise. Even if millions now watch television on their phones via their Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO apps, that doesn’t change the balance of power. Television by any other name is the game everybody is trying to win—including outlets like The Wall Street Journal that never used to play the game at all.

Drawing on his unparalleled sources in corner offices from Rockefeller Center to Beverly Hills, Wolff tells us what’s really going on, which emperors have no clothes, and which supposed geniuses are due for a major fall. Whether he riles you or makes you cheer, his book will change how you think about media, technology, and the way we live now.
“The Knowledge Illusion is filled with insights on how we should deal with our individual ignorance and collective wisdom.” —Steven Pinker

We all think we know more than we actually do.
 
Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don’t even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in the people and things around us. We’re constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads: in our bodies, our environment, our possessions, and the community with which we interact—and usually we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
 
The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant. The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individual-oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. The Knowledge Illusion contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the community around us.
A New York Times bestseller

An astonishing—and astonishingly entertaining—history of Hollywood’s transformation over the past five decades as seen through the agency at the heart of it all, from the #1 bestselling co-author of Live from New York and Those Guys Have All the Fun.

The movies you watch, the TV shows you adore, the concerts and sporting events you attend—behind the curtain of nearly all of these is an immensely powerful and secretive corporation known as Creative Artists Agency. Started in 1975, when five bright and brash employees of a creaky William Morris office left to open their own, strikingly innovative talent agency, CAA would come to revolutionize the entertainment industry, and over the next several decades its tentacles would spread aggressively throughout the worlds of movies, television, music, advertising, and investment banking. 

Powerhouse is the fascinating, no-holds-barred saga of that ascent. Drawing on unprecedented and exclusive access to the men and women who built and battled with CAA, as well as financial information never before made public, author James Andrew Miller spins a tale of boundless ambition, ruthless egomania, ceaseless empire building, greed, and personal betrayal. It is also a story of prophetic brilliance, magnificent artistry, singular genius, entrepreneurial courage, strategic daring, foxhole brotherhood, and how one firm utterly transformed the entertainment business.

Here are the real Star Wars—complete with a Death Star—told through the voices of those who were there. Packed with scores of stars from movies, television, music, and sports, as well as a tremendously compelling cast of agents, studio executives, network chiefs, league commissioners, private equity partners, tech CEOs, and media tycoons, Powerhouse is itself a Hollywood blockbuster of the most spectacular sort.

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