2009 Media Person(s) of the Year:
Twitter Guys

The founders of the social media phenomenon and "the biggest media story on the planet" are named the most noteworthy figures in media.

Twitter Guys Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams are the 2009 Media Persons of the Year, according to the annual online competition held by I Want Media.

Readers suggested 10 candidates for the week-long contest to the name figure (or figures) who had the most impact on the media landscape during the past year. The winner for 2008 was Arianna Huffington, who followed Hollywood's Striking Writers in 2007.







Among the 2009 finalists with the most votes: Redbox, Glenn Beck and Oprah Winfrey. Write-in votes included Brian Roberts, Rush Limbaugh and Nikki Finke.

But the founders of Twitter had the biggest year in 2009, voters say. Their live, 140-character messengering service became "the biggest media story on the planet," as the social media phenomenon provided the traditional news media with a flood of news tips and insights, from the disputed presidential election in Iran to Paul Adbul's announcement of her departure from "American Idol."

Twitter allows "a single voice to have as much power and relevance as an entire media network," says Ashton Kutcher, the actor and digital-media entrepreneur, who in March beat out CNN in a widely publicized race to acquire the first 1 million followers. Twitter, Kutcher claims, "is as significant and paradigm-shifting as the invention of Morse code, the telephone, radio, television or the personal computer."

The three year-old micro-blogging service became even more mainstream this year, after fellow Media Person of the Year candidate Oprah Winfrey sent out her first tweet. Twitter (which was also named the "most popular word" of 2009) may be in store for an even bigger year in 2010, as it prepares to add advertising to the revenue it already rakes in from Google's and Microsoft's newly added use of its updates in their search results.

According to internal Twitter documents, company execs see the service becoming no less than "the pulse of the planet." But Twitter's true success will come only when "people stop talking about it and just use it as a utility," according to co-founder Jack Dorsey, while speaking at a panel discussion on the Future of Media held by I Want Media.

Twitter creator Dorsey says he has a different choice for 2009 Media Person of the Year: "I would have to say our users."

This year's 10 finalists:

TIM ARMSTRONG. Google's head of advertising left the company near the start of the year to become chief executive of AOL, charged with overseeing the Time Warner Internet unit as it finally breaks away from its parent company and undoes one of the worst deals in corporate history. Armstrong says he has a clear strategy for the new AOL, which revolves around becoming the "content king of the Web." AOL already distinguished itself in 2009 as an aggressive recruiter of journalists, as newspapers and magazines suffered steep job cuts. Still, it will be up to Armstrong "to make the long-suffering AOL into the little Internet company that could."

GLENN BECK. The Fox News Channel commentator emerged in 2009 as one of the most powerful media voices for American conservative populist anger, thanks largely to his caustic commentary that antagonized a variety of political and religious groups. Most notably, he accused President Obama of being racist, attracting huge ratings in the process. While critics claimed he engaged in incendiary rhetoric, Beck known for his frequent on-air weeping simply said, "I'm a rodeo clown." Beck's ambitions now reach beyond the media world. He says he wants to start rallying his "political base to take action." For Beck, "The sky is the limit."

LOU DOBBS. The longtime outspoken anchor for CNN suddenly became more famous for his abrupt on-air resignation from the Time Warner news network. Well known for his opposition to illegal immigration, Dobbs was seen as an outlier at CNN. He later revealed that CNN bosses told him that the network plans to aggressively market itself as the neutral alternative to the left-leaning MSNBC and the conservative Fox News. As for his own future, Dobbs is mulling several options, including a possible run for the White House. President Dobbs? "What's so crazy about that?" he says. "Being in the public arena means you've got to be part of the solution."

JAY LENO. The move of NBC's king of late night to five nights a week in prime time represented "the future of television," according to Time magazine. NBC said it was simply facing media reality with the new cheap-to-produce "Jay Leno Show," as viewers flee to other entertainment options and the broadcast network model dries up. After its September debut, Leno's prime-time outing saw a quick drop in ratings, worrying some NBC affiliates that the audience losses could impact the local newscasts that follow. Startlingly, research showed that broadcast rivals didn't pick up many of the viewers "Leno" lost they vanished from TV viewing altogether.

DAVID LETTERMAN. The CBS late-night host sparked conversations about sexual harassment after he confessed that he had relationships with female employees and that someone tried to extort $2 million from him over the affairs. Apparently, his on-air mea culpa about "all of the creepy things" he had done was a good move. Letterman's subsequent apologies to his wife and staff resulted in big ratings. Weeks later, the sex-and-extortion headlines continued to help boost his show's viewership. (Meanwhile, ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips was fired for his dalliances with a coworker.) For Dave, maybe 2009 wasn't such a bad year.

RUPERT MURDOCH. Who else but Rupert would take on Google in a crusade to force consumers to pay for Internet content? The News Corp. chairman prompted a fierce debate among media watchers with his accusation that Google was "stealing" from his newspapers and his threat to block the search engine from his company's online offerings. Critics claimed the 78-year-old Murdoch didn't "get" the Web. After all, MySpace, his biggest online venture so far, has stumbled. "We realize this is going to be a tough challenge," Murdoch says. "But we're determined to take a leadership position in creating an economic template for the future."

SI NEWHOUSE. Facing steep revenue declines, Conde Nast chief Si Newhouse killed off six magazines (Gourmet, Cookie, Domino, Portfolio, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride), let go more than 400 employees, and slashed budgets by 25%. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Newhouse family was said to be underwriting Conde's losses, which was one of the reasons for the cost-cutting at the glitzy and historically profligate publisher. While Time Inc. may have suffered larger job cuts, Conde's near daily reports of layoffs this autumn seemed almost cruel. Meanwhile, Conde began staffing up in digital, eyeing "a new generation of digital magazines."

REDBOX. The latest upstart to make Big Media nervous is as old as the Coke machine and just as red. Redbox became media's new "public enemy No. 1." Popping up in thousands of U.S. convenience stores and fast-food outlets, the red kiosks stock movie DVDs that rent for a mere $1 a day, a bargain-bin price that is less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Redbox is even entering partnerships with supermarket chains to give DVDs away for free with a purchase of groceries. Hollywood fears Redbox could undermine industry economics by undercutting DVD sales. Rupert Murdoch says: "The Redboxes of the world is not something we like."

TWITTER GUYS. Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams's short-messengering service morphed into the biggest media story on the planet in 2009. Twitter provided the media with a plethora of news tips and insights, from the Hudson River plane crash to the disputed presidential election in Iran. Its real-time search capabilities made it a subject of much talk among media types and even a potential threat to Google. Twitter is preparing to start making serious money by adding advertising in 2010. This summer, Nick Denton and Bonnie Fuller both said their choice for 2009's Media Person would be the Twitter Guys. Are the micro-blogging boys a shoo-in?

OPRAH WINFREY. The Queen of All Media stunned the world with the announcement of her plan to end her principal media foray -- her iconic, 25-year-old syndicated television talk show. "The Oprah Winfrey Show," syndicated by CBS, helped make the entertainer one of the richest Americans, with a net worth estimated at $2.3 billion. It also spawned a far-reaching media empire that includes publishing, broadcast, Internet, theater and screen productions. Winfrey formed a venture early last year to convert the Discovery Health cable channel into the Oprah Winfrey Network, slated to premiere in January 2011. Very soon it will be all Oprah, all the time.


BALLOON BOY Not an industry figure, but a cautionary media tale ... DON DRAPER Not a real person, yet "Mad Men" became even more addicting in its third season ... NIKKI FINKE Sold her must-read infotainment industry news site and bitch slapped The New Yorker ... HARVEY LEVIN Broke the news of Michael Jackson's death on TMZ; still got no respect ... JOHN MICKLETHWAIT Both Newsweek and BusinessWeek want to emulate his Economist magazine ... BRIAN ROBERTS Aspired to become a major media player with his quest to scoop up NBC Universal ... DIANE SAWYER Poised to follow Katie Couric as the second woman to take the evening news anchor chair.



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