Derek Thompson

What makes a hit? In the marketplace for people’s attention, why do certain things become popular?

Senior Editor at The Atlantic | Author of Hit Makers

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Derek Thompson | Senior Editor at The Atlantic | Author of Hit Makers
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

As Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson writes on economics and politics, media and money in America today—and always with an expert sense of what’s important. Whether he’s analyzing labor markets, entertainment, or government—or changes in generational spending and voting habits—Thompson offers sophisticated takes that people actually want to read. He’s also the author of Hit Makers: a bestselling exploration of the science of popularity.

“Derek Thompson has long been one of the brightest new voices in American journalism. With Hit Makers, he becomes one of the brightest new voices in the world of non-fiction books.”

— Daniel H. Pink

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, and the author of its landmark 2015 cover story “A World Without Work”: a wide-ranging exploration of the future of artificial intelligence and employment, and how Americans might cope with a jobless future. He writes the business column for the magazine and contributes to the website on issues ranging from behavioral psychology to the economics of entertainment, demographics to professional sports, elections to blockbuster films. “[Thompson] writes and edits economic news that is readable, informative, and often entertaining,” says The Huffington Post. He also explores the habits of millennials. How does this enormous cohort spend, work, vote, and consume? And how can corporations appeal to, and hire, this often misunderstood demographic? 

 

Thompson also hosts The Atlantic’s latest podcast Crazy/Genius, and is a weekly contributor to “Here and Now,” the national afternoon news show on NPR, and he appears regularly on CBS, the BBC, and MSNBC. He has appeared on numerous lists, including both Inc magazine’s and Forbes’ “30 Under 30” and Time magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds.

 

In his debut book Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, Thompson investigates how blockbuster success isn’t a matter of chance, but a fascinating intersection of power, network, science, art, and sheer brilliance—making some ideas disappear, while others explode. In an age of distraction, Thompson reveals, human attention is our most valuable currency. And in this groundbreaking study, Thompson reveals the ways songwriters, advertisers, filmmakers, speech writers, and more have all realized this modern secret of enormous popularity. His keynotes on the subject offer practical ways to re-think what you know about success, renown, and longevity. From his innovative thinking on ‘aha’ moments (the appeal of the familiar surprise, so to speak) to his debunking of overnight virality (it’s all about distribution!) to his explorations of how popularity always trumps quality, Thompson breaks an immensely complex topic down to a science.

 

Since its release, Hit Makers has been hailed by critics as a “wonderful book … [filled with] solid research, ready wit, and catchy aphorisms” (USA Today) and “a fun, thought-provoking take on the strange turns of cultural fortune” (Publishers Weekly). To bestselling author Adam Alter, it’s “a bible for anyone who’s ever tried to promote practically anything, from products, people, and ideas, to books, songs, films, and TV shows.” Screenwriter Simon Kinberg calls it “required reading for anyone working in the popular arts.”

 
Testimonials

“Derek was great! Reviews on his presentation were outstanding and he was a pleasure to work with.”

Great American Media Services

Speech Topics

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Hit Makers The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction

Why do things become popular? Why do certain songs, apps, games, films, and cultural figures rise to blockbuster-levels of prominence, while others wither in obscurity? If you think the answer’s simple, think again—and start listening. In this absorbing keynote—based on his instant national bestseller Hit Makers—Derek Thompson reveals, for the first time, the complex blend of psychology, marketing, and economics that makes major hits take off. Customizable to your industry—any industry—Thompson shatters myths about quality and taste, reveals crucial insights into networks and audience, and traces popularity from our deepest human needs to the savviest of today’s media manipulators. With great energy and a fine sense of humor, Thompson will offer ideas you can use now to not only make great, lasting products, but products people hear about. You’ll learn:​

 

why the most popular songs, films, and products were often perilously close to failure, 
how the creator of the vacuum and refrigerator designed much of the 20th century with the ‘MAYA’ rule of product design—“Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable,”
why things don’t just ‘go viral’ the way we’ve been taught—and why distribution matters more than we think,
how popular sites like Buzzfeed and VICE use an advertising playbook from the 1930s, and
what lab mice can tell us about chart-topping hits (and pleasing patters of repetition).
 

Attention is our most valuable commodity—so don’t pass up Thompson’s indispensable take on what we like, why we like it, and how culture actually happens.

U.S. Politics
Politics as Entertainment How American Politics Became a Surreal Reality Show

In his prescient, national bestselling book Hit Makers, Derek Thomson predicted that the future of politics would be entertainment. Now with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, U.S. politics has never more resembled a reality show. With an understanding of politics, policy, and the interplay between a media-obsessed Trump and a Trump-obsessed media, Thompson explains what’s going on in politics today—and what the future of the Trump presidency holds for businesses and voters.

Marketing & Consumer Behavior
Is There an App for That? Consumer Habits of the Millennial Generation

What’s the deal with people under 35? This age group, known as the Millennial generation, is taking longer than ever to finish school, get out of debt, and start their careers. And, because of that, sales of houses and cars have declined. Enter Derek Thompson, Millennial expert. Thompson explores the consumer habits of this generation, shedding light on what kinds of ads they pay attention to, what manner of media they consume, and the sort of messages they accept and reject. His keynote reveals the behaviors that drive this demographic, including: the decline of the suburb and the rise of urban centers; the “sharing economy” of apartment rentals and car sharing; Gen Y’s dependence on their new status symbol, the smartphone; new ways of communicating such as Twitter and SnapChat; and how our global economy has made essentials such as food and clothes more affordable than ever before. What should corporations and retailers be doing to target this slippery demographic? Thompson’s keynotes present audiences with the facts they need to get in front of the technology-driven, informed, and connected Millennials.