The 100 Most Important Online Publishers
What can we say that nearly 600 million users haven't already written on your walls: "We like you, we really like you." Actually, there's a new status update on that. While Facebook remains the undisputed champion of the online publishing universe, it actually experienced the first significant churn in its user base this year, and the digintelligentsia are already betting that it's on the wane. Tell that to the marketers and agencies that are expected to invest upwards of $3 billion in display ads on the social network, which will make it the top display-advertising dog in the next year, according to projections from eMarketer. That, plus being a continuous engine for social change (did you hear about the Arab Spring?), plus the fact that it has emerged as a digital-media ecosystem unto itself, supporting and spawning new markets of developers of a magnitude we haven't seen since Microsoft, Apple and Google, is why Facebook moves to the top position on OMMA's 100. Tweet that.
#2 The New York Times
The Old Grey Lady ain't what she used to be. Actually, she's better than ever before, remaining the universal gold standard for premium content in a world of infinite information clutter. The problem is that she hasn't been getting any premiums for it. The shift from analogue advertising dollars to digital dimes has taken its toll on the economics of the greatest news organization the world has ever seen, making the quality and reach of its content all that more remarkable. While it got bumped out of the number-one position on omma's 100 by a super-ascendant Facebook, the Times gets extra points this year for once again tackling the "pay" model. Let's hope it works this time, so that we still have some content worth paying for - even if we don't actually pay for it.
#3 Huffington Post
Arianna Huffington was the poster-child successful, native Web publisher before her $315 million deal to sell The Huffington Post to aol. Since then, she has emerged as one of the most powerful publishers on the Web, putting HuffPo at the center of one of the Web's biggest news, content and lifestyle portals and becoming its editor-in-chief. Huffington says she'll do for the giant content portal what she did for HuffPo: make it the center of the online universe.
Netflix has managed to do what no broadband publisher has managed to do before it: prove that the Internet is as capable as cable, satellite and terrestrial television platforms of distributing long-form film and tv content. But Netlix is more than just a packager and distributor of other people's programming. Its user-ratings and recommendation engines have emerged as a crucial platform for navigating filmed entertainment, making us wonder why they don't simply spin that business off. Netflix's next big act will be as an original content publisher, entering into a production deal with David Fincher and actor Kevin Spacey to develop "House of Cards," an hour-long political drama that will be distributed exclusively by the "Watch Instantly" online subscription service.
Founded by former Google sales chief Tim Armstrong before he was ceo of aol, local online news reporting hub Patch has since been acquired by aol and is now the core of the company's hyper-local media strategy. With a network of more than 500 community news reporting sites, Patch now rivals much, maybe most, of local newspaper and tv coverage. It's also becoming a big factor in aol's attempts to convince Madison Avenue to act local, even as it thinks global.
Tim Armstrong has his detractors, so it's not surprising that since he took the helm of an already beleaguered AOL, many of them have come out of the woodwork. He threw fuel on their fire when he immediately started subverting expectations, paying handsomely to acquire influential content publishers like TechCrunch and The Huffington Post, and then committing the ultimate act of online publishing heresy: reducing the amount of display-advertising inventory AOL sold. The short-term result has been a hit on AOL's quarterly earnings, but the most recent figures have begun to show a pay-off, with display-ad revenues rebounding. What the critics failed to understand was that Armstrong was actually redesigning the AOL user's experience and the impact for advertisers hoping to engage them (see related story, page 31).
From its flagship search site to YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Docs and so much more, Google continues to capture eyeballs across the web.
#8 The Wall Street Journal
#9 Fox News
Wikimedia has been courting Madison Avenue to develop sponsored wikis for brands and content that can benefit from wiki-based communities. Flagship Wikipedia is published in 281 languages and is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet, ranking seventh among all sites on the Web. How do we know that? We looked it up on, Wikipedia, of course.
#14 Al Jazeera
The Mideast-based news service may not be able to get u.s. cable affiliates, but viewers this year flocked to its Web site for the latest developments in a volatile region.
#15 Wael Ghonim
It may not have actually begun with Wael Ghonim, but the former Google Egypt exec has more or less become the poster child for the role social media - and the Web in general - played in galvanizing the Middle-Eastern democratic revolt that has been labeled the "Arab Spring." In 2010, Ghonim created a Facebook page entitled "We Are All Khaled Said," named for the young Egyptian who was tortured to death by police in Alexandria. The page became a lighting rod for dissidents and helped them organize the anti-government protests leading up to the Jan. 25th revolution.
Reaching an all-time u.s. high of 27 million visitors in May, according to comScore, twitter.com was up 13 percent over a year earlier. And, comScore notes, 85-90 percent of Twitter users visit the site each month.
#17 Charlie Sheen
4.3 million Twitter followers. 'Nuff said.
#18 Ashton Kutcher
He not only has seven million Twitter followers, but #17 Sheen's replacement on Two and a Half Men is also co-founder of Web production company Katalyst.
#20 The Weather Channel
When a winter storm hit most of the country on Jan. 31, the site had a record 126.7 million page views.
#21 Funny or Die
The brainchild of funny man Will Ferrell publishes original video content and allows users to upload their own funny videos.
Could tech geeks get any cooler? Wired has been doling out the latest tech news since 1993 in their print magazine and now in multiple daily updates to their site.
#23 Conde Nast Digital
The print magazine publisher's digital network includes everything from fashion to technology.
Unlike rival Associated Press, which directs consumers to its clients' sites to read stories, Reuters has made its Web site into an ad-supported world-news destination of its own.
#26 Associated Press
Dow Jones' site for financial news and information.
CBS-owned, consumer-friendly site for reviews of and news about computer-related hardware and software.
#29 CBS Sports
Of all the major sports leagues, the nba was the earliest and savviest about engaging its fans through social networking. Its website continues to fire on all cylinders with new features, including an All-Access Member Center and 24/7 nba tv.
A baseball fan's always-evolving paradise, now featuring free online streaming of selected games, up-to-the-second stats and scores, and an exciting "Beat the Streak" fantasy competition with an amazing $5.6mm grand prize.
Okay, so npr is steeped in the old media world of radio, but it's probably the savviest broadcaster at leveraging its content via digital media, whether the audience is old fogeys like us, who simply download podcasts instead of turning the dial, or members of the "Twitter generation," who have come to depend on its tweets. According to a study by Mashable, the average npr follower on Twitter follows between two and five npr accounts. That makes sense, because the diverse content streamed by npr includes some of the best news and public affairs reporting - shows like "All Things Considered," Weekend Edition," "On Point," "Fresh Air" and, our personal favorite, "On The Media" - offered by any publisher online or anywhere else.
The network of global conferences seeks to get out "ideas worth spreading." World leaders, thought leaders and even community leaders are given a platform to inspire the masses.
#35 All Things D
Dow Jones' site for news and opinions on technology, media and the Internet.
Mashable is the only "trade" publisher on omma's 100 list, which is kind of interesting when you consider that it more or less competes with us. But Mashable is more than just a publisher of industry news and information about online, tech and especially social media. It's a hub and meeting ground for social-media developers and evangelists, and it's a symbol of the medium's ascendency to the top of the digital media ecosystem.
Boasting three to eight hours of Web-exclusive live video daily, cnbc.com aims to be a financial destination both companionable with and distinct from its sister cable network.
#38 ABC News
Since its inception in 2003, Gawker has been a must-read for the media intelligentsia, wonks and propeller heads, owing to its insider industry gossip and news. But founder Nick Denton has kept it fresh by challenging online publishing business models, from the pay-for-scoops approach to breaking news, to embedding advertiser content and narratives. The bottom line, he says, is whether people keep reading. And we most certainly do.
This women-centric site caters to all aspects of a woman's personal life - from family to health to style - with articles, recipes, quizzes and standard advice.
msn.com offers visitors news, sports, msn Money, games, videos, celebrity gossip, weather, shopping and other content, plus access to other Microsoft services like Hotmail, Messenger and Bing.
At press time, the most recent story on WikiLeaks' home page was two months old. That would be anathema to other news sites, but Julian Assange's new breed of hacker-inspired journalism has proven highly influential. The buzz continues to sizzle long after previously secret government documents regarding Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq and Afghan Wars and other issues were revealed.
#43 The Drudge Report
The Drudge Report exploded onto the scene in 1996 when founder Matt Drudge was the first to report on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Since then, it has been an important news aggregator for readers who like their news fresh and juicy.
With big partners like The New York Times and The Washington Post, msnbc.com hands out reliable news stories alongside content from nbc's on-air news programs.
#45 The Daily Beast
Tina Brown's three-year-old iac-owned news site merged with Newsweek during the past year.
#46 South Park Studios
Every episode of the Comedy Central series for free, plus anything else you can think of related to the show.
Okay, so Current isn't exactly mtv, but under former mtv chief Mark Rosenthal, it's begun to find a unique voice in the transmedia marketplace. So what if that voice is a retread of msnbc's? We're pretty confident that Keith Olbermann will prove to be the kind of franchise programmer who will finally bring Current up-to-speed with Madison Avenue.
#48 Martha Stewart
Netflix (see #4) may have the subscription buzz, but Hulu's free network shows have viewers streaming in.
The venerable left-of-center British daily and its Sunday sister, The Observer, have greatly increased their international visibility thanks to their free Web site, which runs practically all content from the print papers, plus such Web-only fare as dozens of topic-specific blogs.
#53 The Washington Post
Forever relegated to the status of little brother to The New York Times, The Washington Post's Web site stands out for its ease of navigation and outstanding reporting. And it's free.
#54 USA Today
#55 The Christian Science Monitor
Not many Web sites can tout a 20th anniversary banner, as zdnet is doing this year. Begun as a service by pc Magazine and other Ziff Davis publications on the CompuServe subscription network, the site is now owned by cbs and focuses on business technology news.
In 2011, tmz kept readers abreast of ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's demise, with multiple updates and exclusive details each day as the saga unfolded.
Original reporting and blogs highlight Forbes.com's mix of news, politics, economics, business and finance.
#59 Consumer Reports
ConsumerReports.org, emulating its print sister publication by accepting no advertising, claims the most paid subscribers of any Web publication - more than three million last fall, according to a source.
If Google is the Internet's ego, and Facebook is its superego, then 4chan is its id. Chances are most omma readers have never heard of 4chan, and that may be a good thing, because its content can range from simply repugnant to outright sociopathic. But that's kind of the point. Founder Christopher Poole conceived the site as a place where people could be free to say anything with utter anonymity. If you don't get it, don't use it. But plenty of people use 4chan. So many, in fact, that Poole has been courted by mainstream Silicon Valley types to back a commercialized version of the free and open social-expression network.
Since being bought back by its original founders in 2009, the recommendation engine has grown from six million to 15 million registered users, The Next Web recently reported.
More than the prognostications of co-founder Jim Cramer.
Aggregator of critics' music, game, tv and movie reviews.
#66 National Geographic
In addition to tie-ins with its magazine and cable channel, NationalGeographic.com features "Daily News," blogs and email newsletters.
All about video games and gaming, from Xbox and Wii to the iPhone.
#68 Break Media
Break aims at 18- to 34-year-old males with its flagship humor-video site Break.com and a variety of other locations, covering such subjects as movies and tv (ScreenJunkies), women (Chickipedia), games (GameFront) and auto racing (AllLeftTurns).
#69 Comedy Central
Comedy Central's Web site is packed with full episodes, blogs and behind-the-scenes clips from its broadcasts. There's even a jokes section that features comedians' funniest moments.
#71 Glam Media
Not just flagship glam.com, but some 1500 other Web sites and blogs focused on women's fashion and lifestyle.
The 15-year-old Web-only Conde Nast publication offers original content, plus recipes from sister publications Bon Appetit and the now-defunct Gourmet.
Politico.com strives to cover politics without bias.
#74 LA Times
#75 US News & World Report
The most popular aspects of the defunct print publication remain - including the rankings of "America's Best Colleges" and "America's Best Hospitals."
Sharon Waxman has built TheWrap.com into a formibable news source for movie and tv insiders.
TechCrunch started as a small blog in 2005 and has since established itself as an industry leader in profiling start-ups and breaking tech news.
With Farmville in the lead, Zynga's games have some 250 million active monthly users on Facebook.
The 15-year-old online news pioneer recently won a National Magazine Award for general excellence.
Since its unveiling by Microsoft two years ago, Bing use has risen steadily - to 30 percent of the search market in March, according to Hitwise.
#84 The Onion
The site's biting satire of current events can be so spot-on that it even fooled The New York Times this past April when it ran an article featuring Barack Obama's face on the cover of what it claimed was a 2007 issue of teen magazine Tiger Beat. The Onion article attributed Obama's surge in popularity among teenagers to the Tiger Beat story.
#85 Fast Company
News and features about business innovations drive FastCompany.com, with a specific focus on the areas of technology, design, leadership and ethonomics (corporate social responsibility).
Craigslist.com is still 1995 design-wise. The only nod to monetization since then has been the introduction of a $25 charge for posting help-wanted ads. But Craig Newmark's site continues to be the Internet's classified-ad king. In May, it had 51 million unique visitors, according to comScore.
Not just home to the Web sites of Hearst print magazines like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping and Popular Mechanics, but also to digital-only sites like Delish.com and RealBeauty.com.
#89 Food Network
In business just three years, Groupon has not only expanded from one market to more than 175; it's also launched a whole new "deal of the day" Web publishing category - from LivingSocial to Google Offers, Facebook Deals and Amazon Local to daily newspaper sites across the country.
#93 New York Magazine
Still the best place to learn about all things New York.
Online home to the publisher of top health mags like Runner's World and Men's Health.
#96 Gilt Groupe
The "flash sales" company that offers luxury goods for a steal was founded in 2007, paving the way for other online sites that offer similar, limited-time deals.
#97 Bleacher Report
Emerging as the dark horse of sports journalism, Bleacher Report consistently holds steady in readership and ranks among espn and abc Sports. Over the first four months of this year, Bleacher Report came in the number-four position for sports Web sites, according to comScore.
#99 Demand Media
Derided as a content mill and scorned by Google, but recently cheered on by analysts six months after its ipo, Demand relies on a network of some 13,000 freelancers to churn an apparently endless supply of consumer-friendly content.
Just when it looked like MySpace was getting its story together again - shifting from simply being a social network to becoming a platform for "social entertainment" (which it probably always was, anyway) - the narrative shifted once again, leading us to drop it down a few pegs on omma's 100. We didn't want to knock it off altogether, mainly because we're curious what the new owners - the improbable team of online-ad network Specific Media and Social Network actor Justin Timberlake - have in store.