Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?

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. Recent research 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. [Hat Tip to Marc Andreessen]

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