HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Adam Penenberg

Social Media in Business Expert; Professor of Journalism, NYU


  • Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves in Record Time
  • The Future of Print: What Books, Magazines, and Newspapers of the Future Will be Like
  • Social Networking to Boost Your Business


New York

"Instead of entrusting your business to a guru with an agenda and a ghostwriter, you should be turning to a pro journalist like Adam Penenberg, who understands the way media and money interact, has the critical faculty to engage with these phenomena in an unbiased fashion, and the technical facility to explain them to you in an entirely engaging, informative, and actionable way."
-- Douglas Rushkoff, author of Media Virus and Life Inc.

Adam L. Penenberg is a journalism professor and assistant director of the Business and Economic Program at New York University, and author of Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today's Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves (Hyperion). A contributing writer to Fast Company, he has also written for Inc., Forbes, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, The Economist, Playboy, and Mother Jones. At New York University, Penenberg is the assistant director of the Business & Economic Program, heads the department's ethics committee - he wrote the department's journalism handbook for students, which received unanimous faculty approval and the ethics pledge, which all students must sign - and teaches multimedia, magazine writing, and hard news and investigative reporting to graduate and undergraduate students.

A sought after keynote speaker, he has spoken at colleges and at businesses like Lockheed-Grumman and AIG. Penenberg has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CNN's American Morning and Money Line, FoxNews, MSNBC, NBC, CNBC, and NPR and has been quoted about media and technology in the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Wired News, Ad Age, Marketwatch, and many others.

In Penenberg's Viral Loop talks he names and explains the paradigm-busting phenomenon which is the essence of how the most successful Web 2.0 companies - from Google to PayPal - are growing. Each designed its product with a viral loop at its core: to use it, you have to spread it. The result: Never before has there been the potential to create wealth this fast, on this scale, and starting with so little.

Many of the iconic Web 2.0 companies of our time - tech blue chips like Google, PayPal, YouTube, eBay, Facebook, MySpace; relative newcomers like Digg, LinkedIn, Twitter and Flickr; as well as the hundreds of widget makers navigating the emerging "social media" economy - fit this description. The trick is that they created something people really want, so much so that their customers happily spread their product for them.

Penenberg explains that all of these companies are powered by something called a "viral expansion loop," which is accomplished by incorporating virality into the functionality of their products. In plain English, it means a company grows because each new user begets more users. Just by using a product they have to spread it. After all, what's the sense of being on Facebook if none of your friends are on Facebook, or using Flickr if you can't share your photos? The result is a type of alchemy that, done right, leads to a self-replicating, borg-like growth: One user becomes two, then four, eight, to a million and more. It's not unlike taking a penny and doubling it every day for a month: By the end of a week you'd have 64 cents and within two weeks, $83.92; by day 30, about $5.4 million. It is not a stretch to say that viral loops have emerged as the most significant business accelerant to hit Silicon Valley since the search engine.

A former senior editor at Forbes and reporter for Forbes.com, Penenberg garnered national attention in 1998 for unmasking serial fabricator Stephen Glass of The New Republic. Penenberg's story was a watershed for online investigative journalism and is portrayed in the film Shattered Glass (Steve Zahn plays Penenberg).

Penenberg's first book, Spooked: Espionage in Corporate America, was excerpted in the Sunday New York Times Magazine and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. His second, Tragic Indifference: One Man's Battle With the Auto Industry Over the Dangers of SUVs (HarperBusiness, 2003) was optioned for the movies by Michael Douglas and excerpted in USA Today. Reviewers called it "gripping" (Mother Jones) "dramatic" (Boston Globe), "stinging," "comprehensive" and "disturbing" (Publishers Weekly), a book that has a "narrative with rich, detailed characters" (San Francisco Chronicle) and "offers a comprehensive look at a notorious corporate scandal and a courtroom drama and investigation that ends in triumph for the many victims" (Booklist).

Penenberg lives with his family in New York City.

Praise for Viral Loop:

"Penenberg has unlocked the secret to the most successful digital businesses. An indispensable read."
-- Robert Safian, Editor-in-Chief, Fast Company

"Adam Penenberg's lively book opens a window to all of our futures."
-- Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It

"If you want to understand all things viral, this is the place to start. Penenberg's reporting gives us a ringside seat for some of the biggest viral success stories in history, from Tupperware to Ning."
-- Dan Heath, co-author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

"Penenberg discovers the perpetual motion machine for business and marketing.... Buy this book. Catch a virus. Make a fortune."
-- Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?

"One of the most astounding things about the Web age is how the best advertising is often no advertising at all. Penenberg masterfully explains how this works with case studies of products that were designed to spread. Every product can use a dose of this technique; this is the book to get to learn how."
-- Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Free: The Future of a Radical Price

"In tight, engaging prose, Adam captures the essence of the ever-scaling power of the virus. It's not just for geeks anymore."
-- Seth Godin, author of Tribes