The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

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Popularity Isn’t Luck. It’s a Science. Derek Thompson’s New Book Hit Makers Explains How Major Trends Take Off

Why do some songs, apps, games, films, or celebs blow up, while others flop? To Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson, “going viral” is more than blind luck. In his new book Hit Makers, he reveals the hidden web of power, influence, business smarts—and even genius—that makes culture happen.

In Hit Makers (coming Feb. 7), Thompson surveys trendsetting with the same perceptive voice that shines through in his Atlantic articles. Here are just a few of the curiosities explored: What do ESPN’s programming and The Weeknd’s choruses have in common? Why is the year 1991 almost solely responsible for the way modern pop music sounds? And why are all of today’s Hollywood blockbusters sequels and reboots? 


Essentially, why do we like what we like?


In an age where distraction reigns and attention is our greatest commodity, what does it take to make your song, your product, your idea a hit? Thompson’s book is valuable fare for any business, marketer, or creative looking to understand the science and psychology of mass popularity.


Here’s some of the early press for Hit Makers:


“Derek Thompson’s Hit Makers is a sharply observed history of the megahit, from the 13th-century 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


“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


“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


“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


To hear Hit Makers author Derek Thompson speak at your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, his exclusive representative for speaking engagements. 


David Sax’s The Revenge of Analog Is One of Michiko Kakutani’s Top Ten Books of 2016 in The New York Times

New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michiko Kakutani has named David Sax’s The Revenge of Analog one of her Top Ten Books of 2016, further cementing the book’s place among the hottest business titles of the year.

An additional, glowing review, also from Kakutani, calls The Revenge of Analog “a powerful counternarrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world”—an “insightful and entertaining account” of the surprising resurgence of the real.


Sax’s book, which came out in November, explores the dramatic bounce-back of physical goods and experiences in the past decade. From Polaroid cameras to Moleskine notebooks, board game cafés to vinyl records, products with a distinctly human touch are striking back against the seemingly insuppressible crush of digital. In workplaces, too, the trend is real: tech-heavy companies like Facebook and Yelp use whiteboards in their offices; Amazon is beginning to open up brick-and-mortar stores; and schools are rediscovering the power of analog learning tools in increasingly digital classrooms.


A seasoned keynote speaker, Sax is also the author of The Tastemakers and Save the Deli.


To hire conference speaker David Sax, author of The Revenge of Analog, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Why Analog (Still) Matters: David Sax on the Enduring Value of Vinyl, Polaroids, Moleskines, & More

Awash in digital technology, we still crave tactile, analog goods and experiences, says author David Sax. His third book (following the food-trend-focused Save the Deli and The Tastemakers) is called The Revenge of Analog, and it chronicles the improbable comeback of real, physical stuff—like vinyl LPs, Polaroids, board games and Moleskines—in the Internet age. In advance of the book’s release next week (November 8), Sax stopped by CBC Radio’s “Day 6” podcast Friday to talk about the resurgence of these decidedly 20th-century technologies—and more importantly, why it’s happening.

Here’s Sax on the renewed popularity of vinyl:


We don't need to listen to vinyl records today. We can listen to any song on a streaming service. It takes up no space and we can do it just about anywhere that we can get a signal. So why does vinyl matter?


I think vinyl is fundamentally about the emotional connection we have to things and the way we interact with them that's different from the digital equivalent. So a record is something you can feel and you can touch. There's a sense of discovery when you find a record at a garage sale or a record store [that] comes with pride. It's almost like you've hunted it down.


Then there's the act of listening to it. Not to get all McLuhan, but it's very involved. It involves your physical senses: touch, sight, smell and obviously the sense of sound. And when you get it on, you're not skipping to tracks, you're not flipping back and forth through your email. You're there for twenty-two-and-a-half-minutes of each side.


There's an attraction to that because you are engaging with the music in a more committed way.


And here’s his take on the return of old-school cameras:


Film and old cameras matter because of the process. You have the imposition of limitations, for example, the cost of a roll of film and the cost of developing it. You have a lack of instant feedback like we're now used to with digital cameras. You press the shutter, it clicks and you won't know if it works until it's back from the lab.


Then you have a limitation on the number of pictures – 24 or 36 – that you can take. Each one has to be thought out instead of being able to shoot thousands of pictures in one session like you can with a digital camera and then go back and fix it later. 


It's these limitations that spurs creativity. That's why new photographers are using film and why some area going back to it. With digital you can fix anything in Photoshop so it's the unique look, the imperfection that's sought after now because perfection can be achieved digitally.


For the full interview, head over to CBC


Be sure to grab The Revenge of Analog when it comes out next week. And if you like it, consider booking David Sax for a keynote—he’s an expert on cultural trends and what they mean for marketing, retail, and business strategy.