Why does everyone have an iPod?

How is it that some ideas – even childish sometimes – impose and become trends, while others bloom only briefly and then disappear off the face of the earth?

ipodSociologists call “diffusion” the manner in which an idea or product is transmitted. One of the most famous diffusion studies is the analysis of Bruce Ryan and Neal Gross for the spread of hybrid corn in the 30s at Greene in the state of Iowa USA. Although the new kind of corn was far superior to the old types, it took professionals 22 years in order to make it widely accepted. Researchers of the phenomenon of diffusion named the farmers who adopted since 1928 the new corn style “innovators”, while the slightly larger group affected by these where named early adaptors – or followers. They were people that shaped public opinion, who watched the experiments of the innovators and adopted them afterwards. At the end of the 30s followed the group of the “skeptics” – in this case, successful farmers, people who would not change anything if not previously tested. So they caught the “corn virus” and finally passed it on to the rest of the population, in other words the “stragglers”.

Mounted on a graph, this procedure takes the form of a perfect progressive curve: at the beginning is gradually going up and then reaches the critical point of every innovation where many products fail. The crucial point of every innovation is the transition from the “early followers” to “skepticals”. At this point there is a gap. According to the American sociologist Morton Grodzins, if the early followers make the product past the gap and reach skeptics, the epidemic cycle reaches its peak / tipping point. From this point, the curve climbs steeply when the majority of the market adopts the product and is reduced again only when the stragglers are left.

Specifically for technological innovations, such as the iPod or iPhone, this life cycle is very short. The interest of “early followers” vanishes once the product has spread massively and they start seeking new innovative product.