In yesterday’s blog post I talked about a new study of scientific papers, which shows that hit papers – the ones with highest impact – score highly on both “conventionality” and “novelty”. In other words, the very new thrives best when it’s planted in extremely familiar soil.
What makes a hit? Understanding why things become popular is one of the foundational questions of marketing, but a surprisingly difficult one. It’s easy – too easy – to come up with reasons for success which are satisfying from a narrative and a commonsense perspective, but which are ultimately completely untestable.