Bill Wasik tells us how to go viral.


Bill Wasik's And Then There's This helps us understand how outburst like Joe Wilson's "You lie!" go viral.

Bill Wasik's And Then There's This helps us understand how outburst like Joe Wilson's "You lie!" go viral.


It’s every blogger’s dream.

A post is written.  Friends look at it on Facebook.  People start to Digg and Stumble Upon it.  Retweeting kicks in.  The page views climb.

Then, something happens.  Like an airplane taking off, the connection between the ground and the air stops and the post starts to lift off into the blogosphere.  Page views climb dramatically, and then furiously, like the pages of a calendar in old black and white moves that used to indicate the passage of time.  

And then, just as suddenly, it stops.  The page views shut off almost instantly, like a water faucet being turned off.  

Harper’s editor Bill Wasik has helped create and sought to understand the viral trajectory, and he shares his findings in And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Dive in Viral Culture. 

And Then There’s This covers a wide range of topics, from the Mob meetups Wasik convened in New York City to an indie band whose popularity had peaked even before its first album had been released to psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience and conformity to trendy economists Steven Levitt and Nicholas Nassim Taleb.  

Unsurprisingly for a book about trends, Malcolm Gladwell gets some Wasik love in the form of  a mention, although Wasik has an intriguing box in which he compares Gladwell’s messages about trends in The Tipping Point to George Orwell’s 1984.  

The irony, of course, in reading this or any book about viral marketing is that Wasik’s point about the half life of stories being remarkably and increasingly short these days could easily be applied to the points that he makes in And Then There’s This.  He notes in the book while writing about the phenomenon of Politico that the online worlds of politics of 2004 and 2008 were closer to light than four years apart. 

In part because of my love of books and my previous ignorance on the topic, I stuck with Wasik’s breezy tome.  

In an interview with Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.Net, Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine addresses the reason behind going for a conventionally produced book-it aims for the masses, he says-and other viral topics. 

For those looking for more recent fare, Liz Shannon Miller of writes about two outbursts that are among the most recent to go viral-Joe Wilson’s yelling “You lie!” during President Obama’s health care speech to Congress and Kanye West’s interrupting Taylor Swift’s receiving a VMA award.


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