Category Archives: reddit

under the influence

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting (and free) piece on a new class of individuals — filters, recommenders, editors, curators, call them what you will — that is becoming increasingly influential in directing attention traffic across the Web. The article focuses primarily on top link hounds at user-filtered news sites like Digg, Reddit and the newly reborn Netscape, sites whose aggregate tastemaking muscle has caught the attention of marketers and product placers, who have made various efforts to buy influence through elaborate vote-rigging schemes and good old-fashioned payola. The article also makes mention of some notable solo filtering acts including a regular stop of mine,, a video archive operated by a young Canadian named Jeff Hoard. At the end of the piece there’s a list with links of other important “influencers.”
While I was reading this I kept thinking of Time Magazine’s “The Person of the Year is You”, which caused a minor stir last December with its cover containing a little mirror in a YouTube-like screen. On one level the piece was simple trend-spotting, a comment on the phenomenon (undoubtedly reaching new heights in ’06) of social media production. But it could also be read as a thinly camouflaged corporate memo announcing big media’s awakening to the potentially enormous profits of an ad-based media network in which the users do all the work of filtering. And it’s precisely the sorts of “influencers” in this WSJ piece that are the “you” on which they are hoping to capitalize. The “you” that convinced Google that $1.8 billion was a price worth paying for YouTube, or Rupert Murdoch a half billion for MySpace (I would have liked to have heard more in the article about the way this phenomenon is playing out on these two sites through the video “channels” and friend networks).
It all adds up to a pretty astonishing redefinition of what “the media” is. The front page, the lead story, the primetime lineup — all in constant renegotiation, constantly rearranged. Yet still in so many ways dependent on the established sources for the materials to be filtered (and probably in the future for personal income, as is already beginning). Feeders and filterers. The new media ecology doesn’t destroy the old one, it absorbs it into a new relationship.