Last year, a senior member of Obama’s campaign email team dropped this bombshell: despite the team’s expertise, no member could reliably predict which message would generate the most money. “We basically found our guts were worthless,” he admitted.
Earlier this year, Adam Mordecai, Upworthy’s editor at large, divulged the same deficiency. “I’m our highest performing curator,” he wrote. “I get 20-30% of our traffic every month. And every time I predict something will go viral, or headline X will win, I’m usually horribly wrong, usually about 97% of the time.”
The lesson: test, test, and test some more.
Addendum (12/23/2013): Or, to put it another way: “Unless you harness the magical powers of a unicorn horn, you will never know how to make all your stuff go totally viral.”