Predicting Hits

The New York Times has an essay by Duncan Watts: “As anyone who follows the business of culture is aware, the profits of cultural industries depend disproportionately on the occasional outsize success a blockbuster movie, a best-selling book or a superstar artist to offset the many investments that fail dismally. What may be less clear to casual observers is why professional editors, studio executives and talent managers, many of whom have a lifetime of experience in their businesses, are so bad at predicting which of their many potential projects will make it big. How could it be that industry executives rejected, passed over or even disparaged smash hits like Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Beatles, even as many of their most confident bets turned out to be flops? It may be true, in other words, that nobody knows anything, as the screenwriter William Goldman once said about Hollywood. But why? Of course, the experts may simply not be as smart as they would like us to believe. Recent research, however, suggests that reliable hit prediction is impossible no matter how much you know a result that has implications not only for our understanding of best-seller lists but for business and politics as well.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.