Friday, September 11, 2009

How Hits Happen - pt 2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post looking at how news stories reached the mainstream, by looking at two stories that got re-ignited through a combination of mainstream and social media.

Two more examples, this time from the world of publishing.

1 - The Stephen Fry Effect, from the BookHugger blog:

"This morning saw a veritable explosion in sales for one particular little book, originally released by Canongate in April. It’s now No 3 in the Amazon charts, rising by nearly 250,000% in the Movers & Shakers list. The book is Sum: 40 Tales from the Afterlives, and is a series of forty (very) short stories by a neuroscientist named David Eagleman. This surge in sales is the result of a single Tweet by one of the country’s most famous Twitterers, Stephen Fry, in which he writes: “You will not read a more dazzling book this year than David Eagleman’s Sum. If you read it and aren’t enchanted I will eat 40 hats”. This has been re-tweeted by hundreds of Fry’s followers, and the impact is clearly visible on sales. In fact, such has been the increased interest from retailers that a major reprint of the book has just been confirmed to meet demand."

This shows the impact that a prominent tweeter can have - one who has both a large following, and whose tastes and recommendations are respected. But it wouldn't happen if I tweeted the same message. & that's the thing with twitter - it's not a magic answer, it's a medium with more noise and clutter than any other.

(I remember years ago a figure in a British political scandal being named on an obscure forum, and the press saying 'the name is now available to the 10 million in Britian who have access to the internet'. Yes, potentially, but the internet isn't a TV channel with everyone watching the same thing. In fact TV isn't like that either).

2 - Mainstream media and timing, from another publishing blog, Scott Pack's Me And My Big Mouth:

In this Scott writes about how interest in one of the books he publishes, The Dolce Vita Diaries, had suddenly exploded:

"Then, more or less out of nowhere, things have gone mad. Cathy wrote a very honest and frank article for the Guardian in which she talked about their experiences and why they came back to London. It appeared on Wednesday and prompted a huge response online, mostly of the 'you silly middle-class tossers' variety but people were certainly talking about it. OK, so it was five months after publication but beggars can't be choosers. And then the phones went mental. We started getting requests from all over the place for further interviews. The Daily Mail, national and local radio, loads of people. All of a sudden Cathy's planned quiet weekend at home while Jason was away has become a series of phone interviews. Their story seems to have struck a chord and it looks like we will get more publicity in the coming week than we had ever hoped for first time round."

Again, this shows the importance of media with a large audience, but also of timing, and luck. The story was better a few months on, because the writers (of a 'chucking your job in to live abroad' book) had now returned to the UK. Plus, it was August, when people were coming back from their holidays and were more receptive to the story. (I also wonder with the Stephen Fry example whether people are very receptive to new books at this time of year; it seems to be the week that book shops have filled up with the big Christmas titles).

In these two cases you can see the effect of well presented messages reaching large audiences. These are the crucial elements, I think. Same as they ever were.

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