Avoid writing for the echo chamberThis lust for virality deforms how we think in public. What do you get if you mentally focus-group every utterance before you post it? Stuff that’s panderingly dull (best not to offend anyone) or that leans into the kabuki hysteria of a sick burn (offend everyone!). Posts designed specifically to hack the attentional marketplace.
One podcasts rocket rideWhen the first episodes were posted in June 2012, they barely generated a ripple. “At the time, I don’t think I could even get my mom to listen to the podcast,” Mr. Baldwin said. “She was like, ‘Oh, another nonpaying job, that’s great, sweetie.’ ” They kept at it, posting a new 25-minute episode every other week. Over the next year, the show was downloaded roughly 150,000 times. Then, for reasons its creators still can’t fully explain, the audience exploded overnight. In July 2013, the show was downloaded 2.5 million times. It shot to the No. 1 spot on iTunes, surging ahead of popular programs like “This American Life” and “Radiolab.” That August, it was downloaded 8.5 million times. Rabid fans were obsessively dissecting each episode on sites like Reddit and Tumblr.
How brand-new words are spreading across AmericaYou can see, for example, how on fleek exploded almost simultaneously across the country last year. The phrase, which roughly translates to perfect or on point, was a linguistic surprise hit. It didn’t start with a celebrity or brand trying to coin a new phrase. What set it off was Kayla Newman, a not-yet-famous Vine user, saying, “Finna get crunk. Eyebrows on fleek.” From there it took off, fast. On fleek got picked up by IHOP, Taco Bell, and Kim Kardashian. Now it is fully in the lexicon, used regularly on Twitter as though it existed for many years, not just one. It is fundamentally a borderless word, native to the internet. The same is true of some other emerging words identified by Grieve, like amirite (“Am I right?”) and faved (to favorite a tweet).
Herding viral political catsStill, for campaigns used to message control, it can be a double-edged sword, says Cyrus Krohn, who directed digital efforts for the Republican National Committee in 2008 and is now with Cheezburger.com, an online hub of Internet culture. “You used to be able to just interact with your five or 10 talking heads who went and did the TV shows, and now you’ve got an infinite number of social-media content creators who are carrying your water in one way, shape or form,” he says. “And how do you herd the cats? How do you coalesce all of these people to help? They’re already very independent and they don’t want to be told what to do. But if the right level of respect and interaction can be constructed, then you’ve built up a cadre of digital advocates who aren’t official members of the campaign.”
@emersonspartz gets freeze-driedThe appetizer course had not yet arrived. He checked the time on his cell phone and cleared his throat. “Every day, when I was a kid, my parents made me read four short biographies of very successful people,” he began. On this occasion, I was the only person listening to his speech, but he spoke in a distant and deliberate tone, using studied pauses and facial expressions, as if I were a video camera’s lens. When he got to the part about virality being a superpower—“I realized that if you could make ideas go viral, you could tip elections, start movements, revolutionize industries”—I asked whether that was really true. “Can you rephrase your question in a more concrete way?” he said.
Being Bad Luck Brian: When the meme that made you famous starts to fade awayBetween licensing deals and T-shirts, he estimates he’s made between $15,000 and $20,000 off Bad Luck Brian in three years. Certainly not enough to live off, he says, “but not bad for doing basically nothing.”
Infectious disease, behavioural flexibility and the evolution of culture in primates | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological SciencesAcross 127 primate species, we found a positive association between pathogen richness and rates of innovation, extractive foraging and social learning.
Solar power is contagiousadding one rooftop system on a block increased the average number of installations within a half mile radius by 0.44.
In other words, there’s things which are true on the internet — like that letter from a disappointed grandpa, or a video of a failed twerk. The Internet is getting increasingly good at generating such content — so good, indeed, that the bar is getting raised, and the chances of successfully viral content simply emerging naturally from the world are getting ever slimmer. There’s now so much fake content out there, much of it expertly engineered to go viral, that the probability of any given piece of viral content being fake has now become pretty high.
ecause he's constantly scrutinizing his traffic to figure out why certain posts do well and others don't, Mr. Zimmerman also keeps a running list of "hot" themes in his head. "It might be that right now, people don't care about stories about cats that much, and instead, sloths are more popular," he says. "So I'll have a rule—cats are out, sloths are in, focus on sloths because that's going to be your meal ticket." The whole process happens very quickly. "Within 15 seconds, I know whether an item is going to work," Mr. Zimmerman says. He usually has a headline ready to go a few seconds after that. "It's a biological algorithm," he says. "I've put myself into the system—I've sort of become the system—so that when I see something I'm instantly thinking of how well it it's going to do." Indeed, Mr. Zimmerman says he can no longer tell the difference between stories he finds interesting and stories that will be popular. "If it's not worth posting then I'm not interested," he says.