Top 10 Media
01 – Twitter
For linking users worldwide in real time and becoming as important in TV, news, and politics as the events themselves. It’s impossible to talk about media without Twitter. The now-ubiquitous microblogging services has more than 200 million registered accounts and was recent valued at $8 billion. Twitter has come a long way since it started out as a combination blogging-social-networking platform; it’s now crucial for advertisers, marketers, and media. TV producers watch as Twitter comments about their shows come in and adjust content accordingly. Twitter partners with tons of media companies, working with the New York Times for elections and the Weather Channel, adding tweets to TV broadcast and local tweets to weather.com. Twitter has also been a powerful political tool, and not just for American politicians. Demonstrators in the Arab Spring movements used the site to stay in touch and pass along information. Twitter enabled that communication faster than any other medium could. The rapidity with which information is disseminated is one of Twitter’s key additions to today’s media. READ MORE
02 – Red Bull Media House
For being a consumer products company that’s embraced media production like no one else. The Austria-based energy drink giant, which has been producing action sports and lifestyle programs for more than 20 years to bolster its brand, decided to transform its content business into its own company, when it launched Red Bull Media House (in Europe in 2007 and in the U.S. last year). The goal is to create a revenue-generating media business parallel to Red Bull’s beverage business. Red Bull’s media projects yield material for DVD, online, and TV, befitting the company’s new mold of creating content wherever followers of the Red Bull lifestyle may be. Beyond action sports, Red Bull Media House is moving into a wider definition of what kind of programming would be of interest to its potential audience, such as Bouncing Cats, a sensitive documentary about the power of hip-hop to improve the lives of Ugandan children. READ MORE
03 – New York Times
For proving a newspaper’s digital and print sides can work well together and for the successful launch of a paywall. The first time the New York Times tried to erect a digital paywall, in 2005, the effort failed miserably. The second time’s the charm for the revered news organization; after the launch of a new wall last March, the newspaper now has almost 325,000 digital subscribers. A big part of new editor Jill Abramson’s qualifications are what she wants to do for the Times’s digital business: expand it and integrate it with print. Although the company’s overall financials remain weak, it deserves credit for trying to transform its business before it’s too late.
04 – Tumblr
For making good-looking blogs easy to make and for becoming a de facto tool for traditional magazines and newspapers. Tumblr is popular and only getting more so. Its 30 million blogs now get 13 billion pageviews per month, compared to 2 billion at the beginning of 2011. The minimalist blogging platform is used by amateur bloggers and massive media outlets alike, appealing to users who like its simple and well-designed aesthetic choices. It has become such a phenomenon and creator of phenomena that it recently hired its own curators to surface the best stuff on the platform. In September 2011 Tumblr announced it had raised $85 million in venture capital funding, giving the company an estimated valuation of $800 million.
05 – Ushahidi
For combining citizen journalism and maps to bring news to disenfranchised people and areas in crisis. Ushahidi, which means “witness” in Swahili, was founded in 2007 in Kenya after presidential election disputes turned violent. It’s since been used to monitor elections in Mexico and India, Japan after the tsunami, and more; the platform is used in 132 countries. Relying on mostly SMS and emails, the crowdsourced information keeps people aware during crises, in which regular news outlets are often to bulky or slow to act–and, in some cases, to keep people safe.
06 – Reddit
For its social news platform that brings together communities of readers and furthers the dissemination of massive amounts of information. Reddit is a hugely popular news aggregation site and community. Members cluster in “subreddits” organized by topic or location, forming smaller communities within the larger one. And the beauty behind all of this managed anarchy is it’s driven by journalism. “Ask me anything” conversations reveal more insightful interviews from user questions than most mainstream-media Q&As, and the site’s users, of course, are engaged in activism, too, most notably its stop SOPA campaign.
07 – McSweeney’s
For proving the value of print publishing. The one-time quarterly journal is now a mini-empire of online, print, and visual media. Most notable last year was its fresh entry into magazine-style publishing. Lucky Peach is a collaboration with Momofuku’s David Chang about food that looks nothing like your typical food magazine. And it partnered with ESPN spinoff site Grantland to publish the best and most enduring of its daily offerings in a quarterly journal (the first one had a cover resembling the surface of a basketball). As with the rest of the McSweeney’s oeuvre, they are beautiful in both content and form, emphasizing distinctive writing and design alike.
08 – Byliner
For making literary nonfiction and journalism hip. Byliner considers itself a publishing company, discovery platform, and social network. By succeeding at all three–and by being easy to use and aesthetically inviting—Byliner is championing long-form journalism and short fiction in a microblogging age. The San Francisco-based company, which launched last spring, hosts and links to thousands of long-form narrative stories. It curates the best stories from publications such as the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, and yes, Fast Company–and it commissions and publishes its own Byliner Originals. In both cases, the focus is on the writer, a choice that sets Byliner apart from like-minded sites. Its writer and story-based focus also allows Byliner to work like Pandora, suggesting stories to readers based on what they’ve already read and liked.
08 – The Awl Network
For providing a much-needed stylistic antidote to Gawker blog snark. There’s something in it for the intellectually snobby, the high-brow celebrity-gossip analysts, the low-brow celebrity-gossip lovers, the politically minded, and so forth. And, especially in the last year, there’s a lot in it for people who simply like good, captivating writing. Plus, it’s grown from one website to many, including the smart, female-focused Hairpin, comedy nerd haven SplitSider, and the distinctively minimal tech gadget review site The Wirecutter.
10 – BuzzFeed
For launching a newsroom that mimics the spirit of its addictive viral memes. Starting with the 2012 election season, which is as OMG as any cat video, the hub for the Internet’s goofy, anarchic side is applying those principles to reporting politics, culture, and tech, bringing that distinct sensibility to reporting and commentary for people who get all their news and information from what their Twitter feed tells them is worth reading.