Hit Makers by Derek Thompson

Wednesday, May 10th 6:30pm

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.


Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson is by some metrics the most-read author at the magazine. Thompson is a weekly business correspondent on NPR’s Here and Now, which reaches an audience of nearly 4 million listeners. On television, he regularly appears on CBS: This Morning, MSNBC, and CNBC. He has been named one of Reuters’s “Blogs to Follow,” Time’s top 140 Twitter feeds, the Huffington Post’s 100 best economic reporters, and Forbes’ “30 Under 30”.