How business owners & marketers can use Lindy effect
May 27, 2019 | Posted by Cristina in Newsletters
The text below was first sent to our newsletter subscribers, in May 2019. If you enjoy it and want more, subscribe here.
In the 1920s, in New York city, a restaurant called Lindy opened on Broadway. The place became popular for the cheesecake they served, and the actors used to gather there and gossip about the state of their industry. It was there that they had this epiphany: the odds were high that the Broadway shows that have been played for 100 days will survive for 100 days more, those that were played for 200 days, will continue to be played for extra 200 days, and so on.
The theory that future life expectancy of things is proportional to their current age became known as the Lindy Effect, named after that deli. Every year that passes without extinction adds to the life expectancy. The longer they continue to survive, the longer their remaining life expectancy.
Of course, this applies to non-perishable things. A physical copy of a book can age, but the concepts in it and how long it stays in print will continue to last, while new books might not pass the test of time.
Lindy’s didn’t survive (the place closed down at the end of last year), but Lindy effect is now known and used by investors all over the world. It’s one of the filters that help them decide whether to invest in something or not, to narrow down their choices.
This is one of the factors taken into consideration by Jeff Bezos to make decisions. While some people ask themselves what’s going to change in the next 10 years, he chose to focus on a different question: what’s NOT going to change in the next 10 years? What will stay the same?
Here’s how that applies to Amazon and the retail industry: people will always want low prices – that’s not going to change 10 years from now. They will always want fast delivery. They will want variety in the selection. So Jeff Bezos makes sure that Amazon team invests energy and efforts into these things, so that will pay off over the long term.
I first learned about the Lindy Effect from ‘Antifragile‘, the first book I read by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who became one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read Taleb yet, I highly recommend his work (you can start with ‘Black Swan‘, that’s his most popular book, or ‘Skin in the Game‘, his most recent one). His words will make you feel extremely stupid and, at the same time, like you’re getting a brain system upgrade.
What’s with the Lindy effect? This was the first thing that I talked about last week, when I was a speaker at SO Meetups (a monthly networking event for marketers held in my city), and yesterday evening at PR Beta conference in Timișoara. I argued that a business owner or a marketer can use Lindy when they decide in what channels they should invest their efforts over the long term, and why emails (and newsletters) will be used longer than any social network that’s currently trending.
In the past newsletters, I talked a lot about the race for our attention created by new tech, the psychological effects of social media (rise of teen depression, shortening attention span, and others), and how to take back control. It was from a personal point of view, of someone who needs to protect its sanity, but there’s always the other point of view: the need to build a business and promote your work – no matter if you’re an entrepreneur, an artist, the marketing manager at a corporation or a freelancer.
Most marketers nowadays talk about the latest social media strategies and trending networks, putting most of their eggs in one basket…that doesn’t even belong to them! Over the long term, they realize that they’ve been building a home on rented land and they don’t have access to the goods they gathered in it. In other words: you might realize that the game has changed and now you need to start paying to reach those people who follow you on social media. Or you realize that you can’t access their data (you can’t know for sure if someone saw your message or not), you can’t export and move them to different platforms, and so on.
This is completely different from building a community through a newsletter. Newsletters are old and boring – the first one was sent in 1971, they’ve been around for 30 years, and they’ll likely be around for at least 30 years more – Lindy in effect! They ain’t going anywhere soon.
When you send a newsletter, you can see exactly who opened – on purpose – what you sent them, how many times they opened your emails, at what hours, what they clicked on, when they unsubscribed, and more. The algorithm won’t change overnight and force you to switch your content strategy – emails will still be in someone’s inbox whenever they want to access them.
My point is: if you’re a business owner, a marketer or a freelancer, I’m not saying you should quit social media altogether, although there are plenty of successful businesses and creatives who proved that you can live and thrive without it just fine – and maybe I’ll write about their strategies in the future. But don’t leave out of sight channels that are under your control, such as an email list and your website, and make those central. Think long term, not short term.
If you want to go deeper into the Lindy effect subject and how it applies in more areas, here are a few interesting articles on the subject:
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb: “An Expert Called Lindy“
- Shane Parrish: “How to Choose Your Next Book“
- Paul Jarvis: ‘Why newsletters beat social media’
- Ryan Holiday: ‘Who Can You Trust? A Guide To Your Online Media Diet‘
- Taylor Pearson: ‘The Cat Furniture Problem‘
The text above was first sent to our newsletter subscribers in May 2019. If you enjoyed it and want more, subscribe here.