The book’s best and most original contribution is a chapter that patiently demolishes the idea that cultural products ever actually 'go viral.' The disease model, in which people infect other people who in turn infect others, simply doesn’t explain massive hits ... he has conducted a lot of interviews and read some original research. Yet occasionally he does seem to hang a lot on a single, rather obscure study that may not warrant such confident extrapolations, and he sometimes slips himself into the zombie semantics of marketing speak ... So is Hit Makers a hit in the making? Well, one of the key things the author wants us to understand throughout is this: 'Most consumers are simultaneously neophilic – curious to discover new things – and deeply neophobic – afraid of anything that’s too new.' Or, to put it less pseudo-scientifically, people want something that’s a bit new but also deeply familiar. It is surely no coincidence that Hit Makers, a book of a very familiar type with a couple of good new twists, is the ideal kind of product for such an audience.
Thompson has written a wonderful book full of such wonderings. He wonders all over the place, as befits a man who likes Shakespeare as well as the movie Dumb and Dumber ... Thompson tackles this mystery with solid research, ready wit and catchy aphorisms ... Thompson shows how the melding of innovation with familiarity, as well as exposure of various kinds, applies to other successful creations.
Although often fascinating, this book is ultimately frustrating. It offers the promise of disclosing popularity’s secret but concludes that so many factors must coalesce in so unpredictable a way that, in the words of William Goldman, the Hollywood writer, 'nobody knows anything.' Thompson has huge enthusiasm for his topic and has amassed an amazing amount of material, including many offbeat and engaging stories. What he does not have is the answer. In a sense, this is wholly unsurprising. If there were a secret to hit-making, everyone would exploit it...This is not an argument for ignoring Hit Makers, but for tempering expectations: it is to be read for insight and provocation, rather than the 'aha' feeling a consumer has on encountering an unambiguous hit. One of Thompson’s appeals is that he admits to having sought a foolproof theory without success.