If Little Clouds of Doom Follow You Around, There Might Be Money In It For You!

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Via Tyler Cowen, here’s an intriguing new paper that claims certain kinds of customers are—not to mince words—“harbingers of failure”:

We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail — the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed. Firms can identify these customers either through past purchases of new products that failed, or through past purchases of existing products that few other customers purchase. We discuss how these insights can be readily incorporated into the new product development process. Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that positive customer feedback is always a signal of future success.

There’s a chart, naturally, because Science™. For example, if repeated harbingers (dotted green line) account for half your sales, you’re pretty much screwed. Your shiny new product has less than a 10 percent chance of success. The reason I find this all intriguing is that I have lately begun to wonder if I myself belong to this group. I use Firefox and I think it’s great. Chrome sucks. I think Windows 8 is terrific on a tablet, far superior to either iOS or Android. And I read all my books on the Nook reader, which I like better than the Kindle reader.

Now, Firefox has had a pretty good run and may very well stay around for a while. But it’s not looking like a winner these days. Likewise, Windows tablets account for—what? Maybe 2 percent of the market, despite Microsoft’s massive marketing campaigns. And Nook, of course, is already officially dead, hanging on in limbo until it gives up the ghost for good.

So here’s the deal: I’m willing to rent out my services as a harbinger. Send me your new tech products while they’re still in testing, and then cross your fingers and hope that I don’t love them. If I do, it’s back to the drawing board.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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