Re: Meme transmission

Bill Benzon (
Mon, 07 Jul 1997 15:05:08 -0400

Date: Mon, 07 Jul 1997 15:05:08 -0400
From: Bill Benzon <>
Subject: Re: Meme transmission

Tim Rhodes wrote:

> Has anyone done any actual experiments to calculate the transmission
> rates
> of memes in a give meme-sphere (culture)?
> I'm thinking here along the lines of engineering a meme (or simple
> meme-complex), making predictions about its success, releasing it into
> a
> meme-sphere, and tracking its movement, growth, and adaption over
> time.
> Has this been done (other than in advertising) and if so are the
> results
> available?
> It seems to me this would be a fairly easy task and could offer some
> interesting results.

Well, the movie, publishing, and recording industries are based on this.
The "making predictions about its success" part of the job is tricky,
difficult, and not done all that well & if memetics has any conceptual
machinery that's of real value here, those who understand that machinery
are in a position to get rich. Of course, the real deal on this stuff
is mostly proprietary, but, judging from articles I've read here and
there, on the order of half of all movies don't earn their keep in
theatrical release (though they may recoup the investment in syndication
and video), I've read that only 10% of musical recordings turn a profit,
and I'd guess the success rates of books is similarly dismal.

The interesting thing about these businesses is that you can't do real
solid market research until you actually have a product to show people.
In the case of movies, when you've gotten to that point you've spent
most of your production budget. Compared to the cost of getting that
first print, making copies is cheap. Marketing, advertising, &
distribution costs are off the same order as production costs.

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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