Episode 195: Derek Thompson – What Makes Something A Hit? (Hit Makers)

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine and a weekly news analyst for NPR’s “Here and Now.” He was born in McLean, Va., in 1986, and he graduated from Northwestern University, in 2008, with a triple major in journalism, political science, and legal studies. He hasn’t done much with the latter two. In 2015, he wrote the cover story “A World Without Work” about the future of jobs and technology. “Hit Makers,” his first book on the secret histories of pop culture hits and the science of popularity, comes out in February 2017. He has appeared on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list and Time’s “140 Best Twitter Feeds.”

Episode 195: Derek Thompson – What Makes Something A Hit? (Hit Makers)

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“Think of speechwriting like a music composer.  Use repetition and choruses.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • What makes something a hit?
    • Is there a formula?  No, there is not a formula… People think there is and that’s a mistake
    • Bottom line: “Distribution beats content” — “This is an unsentimental book”
  • There is power in distribution
  • How did Simon Sinek’s TED Talk go viral?
    • It was shared by people with millions of followers on multiple platforms like Reddit
  • Think: Who is my audience? Broadcast your content to the right audience
  • Why do we always watch Dumber and Dumber and Shawshank Redemption?
    • There is nostalgia in art
    • We are always trying to recover existential love
  • How did Bumble spread?
    • Injected into mainstream consciousness through celebrity — Start with one very attractive sorority and continue to repeat
  • How did Facebook spread?
    • Piggy backed off of other networks (Harvard)
  • How Jon Favreau and President Barack Obama write speeches:
    • They think like musicians
      • Using choruses and repetition
  • The best speeches connect with people where they are — “The power of repetition in song is remarkable”
  • How has Derek made his book a best-seller?
    • Familiarity and repartition followed by surprise
      • Familiar surprises throughout
      • Great distribution

“We don’t like pure originality that much.  We like familiarity.” 

Continue Learning:

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Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: Nate Boyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Questions

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

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Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

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