Entrepreneurs: Have you caught “The Viral Fever”

23rd May 2011
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We all want to create a viral. But what makes a viral so elusive? Is it in our control or is the mass-psyche completely uncontrollable?

Ayn Rand, the author of two of the most influential books (The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) ever written had difficulty to get a publisher for her book initially. The book wasn’t an instant success either but once it came under the gaze, its popularity has never thwarted. Her philosophy of objectivity and individualism has affected millions on this planet. It has been known that whenever developed countries go through a recession, her philosophy finds a new set of supporters and her book sales peak. This piece of information is in itself a kind of a virus which triggers people to buy more of her books.

“From the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from one attribute of man -the function of his reasoning mind.” The philosophy of Ayn Rand is a celebration of the power of man and people have turned towards her writings for support whenever they’ve found themselves questioning their own abilities. If the recent past decade is any indication, the developed countries underwent an economic recession in the early 2000’s and the following graph is a proof which indicates the popularity of Rand peaking at that time.

The Viral Fever

Looking further into the trend, amazon book sales show the picture during the depression of 2008-09. These graphs clearly indicate the tendency of people to look towards Rand in times of economic turmoil.

The Ayn Rand philosophy is more of a religion than a trend. It has found readers in all decades and it continues to influence millions. But it can be called a viral in times of recession when its sales suddenly undergo a surge.This seems like a very interesting trend. It may be prudent to peep into graphs of other well-known authors and see if they have had a similar trend somewhere and to our surprise, they do.

The Viral Fever

The above graph shows that readership of Sigmund Freud peaked in 1996. (Last three decades have been considered for comparison). So there must have been something which sparked a psychology drive and everyone wanted to know more about psychoanalysis. Similarly, Charles Dickens saw a rise in the year 2007 and that’s when his writings went viral.

This was a very general and large picture of virals. Keeping them under the microscope, what is it that makes some things go viral and not the rest? This question has no straight answer as the best answer we have is to try being at the right place at the right time and hopefully doing the right thing. The uncertainty of something going viral can be gauged from the popularity of the video “Charlie bit my finger” on youtube (http://goo.gl/tfUZT). The video, made by a father with no intention of making it popular struck some chord with the mass and now, is one of the most watched videos on youtube. The finding that “Ayn Rand book sales surge during recession” was in itself a viral because as we see, there have been similar trends with other authors but they haven’t come to the fore.In this mad race to create a viral, hundreds of services have cropped up guarantying a certain number of hits and this desire for virals has thus created an entire industry by itself. Grabbing as many eye balls as possible is the mantra and in this age wherein we’re trying to get hit as many as possible, we certainly hope to bruise our way to limelight. It’s time to bow down to the virus and hope our bug infects as many as possible.

The Viral Fever


The Viral Fever


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