Randall Payleitner

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The Power of the Personal Recommendation

Our unprecedented technological age affords so many new perspectives, but it also confirms some pretty simple things we all already knew about the world:

  • People like to hang out in groups
  • Nobody enjoys actually going in to the bank
  • When given the choice to waste time, we usually will
  • Puppies do funny things
  • The grass always seems greener on the other side from wherever we are
  • And, personal recommendations from a trusted source are very powerful

When given unlimited choices (the kinds of choices that technology offers) for things like used cars, video rentals, vacation opportunities, and, yes, books… We don’t need more and more things to choose from. What we need is need help with all the sifting!

The personal recommendations that used to come from your next-door neighbor, or your local pastor, or your aunt… can now come from all over the world, and be aggregated and sorted. Your “trusted sources” aren’t all people you actually know—and we now have access to experts on everything. That's good news for you.

Here’s what content creators are figuring out: It’s the personal recommendation, facilitated by the Internet, which drives excitement.

So, as a reader, I already intuitively know this. When I think back on the last ten books I’ve read, at least eight of them came my way because of a personal recommendation from someone I trust (either an expert or someone whose taste in reading material matches mine).

The goal then for publishers ought to become (1) making the most recommendation-worthy books possible, and (2) ensuring their discoverability by the right recommenders. This has been happening for years with official book reviewers in magazines, and then on blogs. But, now, with the proliferation of the number of books available, we need more filters.

Those filters are increasingly becoming those closer to us. Those people we trust—even if we’ve never actually met them. Our time is scarce. But the things we can do with that time are growing exponentially. Who do you trust to tell you what to do with your time?