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Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on [Paperback]

Adam Penenberg
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Aug 2010

Here's how it works: you read a book, you recommend it to a friend. That friend tells another friend. And another... until the book becomes this year's word-of-mouth sensation.

This is the first to analyze the power of the 'pass-it-on' phenomenon, introducing us to the architects of the mightily efficient, money-spinning model known as the Viral Loop - the secret behind some of the most successful businesses in recent history.

Outfits such as Google, eBay, Flickr and Facebook all employ the model at their core; all have seen their stock valuations skyrocket within years of forming. The genius lies in the model's reliance on replication: what's the point of using Facebook if none of your friends can see your profile, or using Flickr if you can't share your photos? Where's the joy in posting a video on YouTube if no one watches it? Thus, in creating a viral product that people want, need and desire, growth can, and will, take care of itself.

Find out why the Loop will catch us all up, sooner rather than later...

Frequently Bought Together

Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on + The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses + The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company: 1
Price For All Three: 42.88

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (19 Aug 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340918691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340918692
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam L. Penenberg is a journalism professor at New York University who has written for Fast Company, Forbes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wired, Slate, Playboy, and the Economist. A former senior editor at Forbes and a reporter for, Penenberg garnered national attention in 1998 for unmasking serial fabricator Stephen Glass of the New Republic. Penenberg's story was a watershed for online investigative journalism and portrayed in the film Shattered Glass (Steve Zahn plays Penenberg).

Penenberg has published several books that have been optioned for film and serialized in the New York Times Magazine, Wired UK, and the Financial Times, and won a Deadline Club Award for feature reporting for his Fast Company story "Revenge of the Nerds," which looked at the future of movie-making. He has appeared on NBC's The Today Show as well as on CNN and all the major news networks, and has been quoted about media and technology in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Wired News, Ad Age, Marketwatch, Politico, and many others.

Product Description


One of the most astounding things about the Web age is how the best advertising is often no advertising at all. Penenberg masterfully explains how this works with case studies of products that were designed to spread. Every product can use a dose of this technique; this is the book to get to learn how. Recommended! (Chris Anderson, bestselling author of The Long Tail and Free)

In tight, engaging prose, Adam captures the essence of the ever-scaling power of the virus. It's not just for geeks any more. (Seth Godin, author of Tribes)

Penenberg has unlocked the secret to the most successful digital businesses. An indispensable read. (Robert Safian, Editor-in-Chief, Fast Company)

Adam Penenberg's lively book opens a window to all of our futures. (Ken Auletta, author of Backstory)

If you want to understand all things viral, this is the place to start. Penenberg's reporting gives us a ringside seat for some of the biggest viral success stories in history, from Tupperware to Ning. (Dan Heath, co-author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die)

Penenberg discovers the perpetual motion machine for business and marketing... Buy this book. Catch a virus. Make a fortune. (Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?)

Instead of entrusting your business to a guru with an agenda and a ghostwriter, you should be turning to a pro journalist like Adam Penenberg, who understands the way media and money interact, has the critical faculty to engage with these phenomena in an unbiased fashion, and the technical facility to explain them to you in an entirely engaging, informative, and actionable way. (Douglas Rushkoff, author of Media Virus and Life Inc.)

An intriguing expose of a simple idea worth its weight in gold and then some. (Cairns Post)

Word of mouth is nothing new in terms of marketing a product... This is "the power of pass-it-on", according to Penenberg, who looks at how an old idea has been made new again by the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Hot or Not... Penenberg writes accessibly about this "paradigm-busting phenomenon" and makes it all sound so simple. (The Sunday Mail Brisbane, and The Sunday Telegraph)

Viral Loop tidily presents a history of viral case studies from analog to digital...This history of social networking benefits from in-depth first-person research. (Courier Mail)

Book Description

A ground-breaking, agenda-setting book that reveals the business model that has propelled the likes of YouTube, Google, Facebook and MySpace to global success.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By M. W. Hatfield VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
What do Tupperware, HotorNot and ebay have in common? Answer- they are all proponents of " Viral marketing"- companies that have succeeded through word of mouth alone. There's a real interesting story here- and this book tells half of it.
Neatly and efficiently, it relates the stories of several of these companies that have succeeded through clever use of the public. And fascinating stories they are.
And yet..and yet..
There's something missing here. The book is fun and interesting. But it could have been so much more. it could have been much more analytical, letting the reader see behind the business.
I enjoyed it, but I didn't get the feeling I got reading Freakanomics, for example, that I was seeing what goes on behind the magician's curtain. Just a set of anecdotes. Good anecdotes, mind you- but there could have been so much more...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By michalu
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book can easily be 20 pages long - it's not about viral marketing, instead you will read about marc andreesen dating ning co-founder or hotmail founders childhood in India.The catchy title is there only to sell more.

The author tries to make up for it by writing about success stories of other people - quite shameful as that is not why I bought the book in the first place. But Pennenberg thinks hey everyone likes inspiring stories so why not to promise content about viral marketing and then fill it with that crap that is easily available on internet but everyone loves.

I recommend reading the tipping point
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but of limited practical use 27 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Viral loop is a book about word-of-mouth marketing, largely on the internet. It's well-written, with some interesting stories about the development of facebook, hotmail, ebay and other big internet names, as well as anecdotes about similar businesses that failed to take off.

It's hard to work out why some businesses do work and others don't. Whilst this book offers lots of examples that might provide some insights, and is quite inspiring for anyone trying to get their own big internet idea off the ground, I would say its of limited use to most small businesses that aren't necessarily aiming to be global internet giants one day. But if you are starting an internet business, you may find this an interesting read, if a bit limited on the practical side.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Internet Biography of Viral Businesses 12 Dec 2009
By Alison TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet so I was drawn to this book for its insight into well known internet businesses including Facebook, MySpace, eBay, PayPal, Flickr and so on. It's not a book that intends to teach about how to create a successful viral business it's more of a biography of the development of viral businesses.

The book starts with a section on "Viral Businesses" with an interesting first chapter about early viral businesses such as Tupperware and the illegal Ponzi scheme. The second chapter looks at the first online viral loop with Mosaic and Netscape. From thereon the history of the internet and its viral loops is biographically covered in sections called "Viral Marketing" and "Viral Networks". The books ends with a short epilogue about the viral nature of human development.

If you are interested in the internet and the businesses that are so prominent in today's web then you will enjoy the detail and insights that this book provides. The writing is clear and easy to read and there are plenty of interesting nuggets about the internet as well as the overall theme of viral networks.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world has changed or has it? 17 Dec 2009
Business books? Too often a badly written mish-mash of obvious statements posing as deep insight and slung together with all the care of fast food.

The opposite, however, is the case here. This is a fascinating book for several reasons. Mainly, for me, there is no chapter headed "The Top Ten Secrets of Viral Marketing They Don't Teach You at Harvard". Which is a relief. It is very well written - plain accessible English, well structured, thoughtful, appropriate and effective use of theory and data combined with well told human interest stories.

And what stories - the chapter on Ebay alone is the sort of thing that could only be true as no one would believe such a rocket powered ascent in a novel.

The main value of this book is that it shows beyond doubt that the human desire for connection and conversation will be met through the internet as long as the internet is around. In other words - this stuff is here to stay and will be a natural part of the human landscape. And therefore, we had all better learn how to get the best from it. And there are some truly inspiring and gripping tales here of how several people did that and got very rich as a result.

This is one of the few business books that has made me actually alter my behaviour. As a direct result of reading it I am now the excited owner of a Ning network. See - this word of mouth stuff really works! Highly recommended.
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This is a well-researched and very readable book on the power of positive feedback loops in marketing. It contains many useful examples. Most, but not all, of them are internet-related.

Minor grouse: the author doesn't really understand the difference between positive and negative feedback (p12).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
This is much more than a book on how viral marketing works on the internet. It's prety much a history behind the web's most popular websites. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Jr Lorrimer
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read
This book is really interesting and well worth a read - I had the previous addition and wanted the updated version. The item was delivered on time.
Published 23 months ago by customer
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book that fills a widening gap in terms of readable...
This book is a much needed easy-to-read introduction to platforms and viral companies, but faces a problem: shelf life. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by W. Page
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but is it replicable?
Time after time I got drawn into the success, and otherwise, stories described within the pages of this book - and it is a well-written, often fascinating account of "overnight"... Read more
Published on 25 Aug 2011 by Clever Spud
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but flawed
This book gets it right in so many areas. It's well written and well-researched. It has some great case studies. What does it get wrong? Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2011 by Arynth
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I found this book very interesting. As a digital project manager I am working with the internet quite a lot and it is rare that there is a book which interests me enough on the... Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2010 by Richard Stowey
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, but nothing too eye opening
'Viral Loop: The Power of Pass-it-on' contains a number of anecdotes which demonstrate how a campaign going viral can have a massive impact on your business. Read more
Published on 12 July 2010 by M. D. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look into systems that work
I didn't think I would be as interested as I turned out to be in the topic, but Penenberg's conversational style kept me interested all the way through. Read more
Published on 4 July 2010 by D Poisson
3.0 out of 5 stars viral loop
great for information on social media and social networks such as facebook, use it for your e-business with complete confidence, tells you how to talk up your business on google,... Read more
Published on 19 May 2010 by E. Dale
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing guide on how to use the Web's amazing viral potential
In 2000, the "Naked Scientists," a group of Cambridge University physicians and researchers who popularize science, satirically described the viral path of an odd growth industry:... Read more
Published on 19 April 2010 by Rolf Dobelli
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