Media 100: A Seat at the Table
100 people we'd meet at Michael's
We're no fans of lists. That's mainly because there already are way too many of them out there. But when we began formulating one of our own we asked a simple question: who'd we most want to have lunch with? These had to be people whose audience we valued for one or more reasons. It was so difficult when we attempted this three years ago, we immediately abandoned the notion of repeating it annually. And yet, here it is again. Because we love anguish so much, this time we decided to rank them. Ultimately, it all came down to some fairly subjective criteria, which you could argue all day long. Why is David Axelrod No. 1 and Nick Denton No. 100? (Why is Denton even on this list?) Perhaps equally noteworthy are the names that are not on this list. Some are people we genuinely like, and would have included if we had more room. Other omissions, including some well-known media industry titans, are intentional. It's not just about being rich, powerful or influential. It's about being someone who can contribute something meaningful to the conversation and leave us with something to chew on.
1. DAVID AXELROD
Senior Advisor to President-elect, Barack Obama
When it comes to media, Axelrod is literally a king maker. Yes, lots of people had a hand in brand Obama, but Axelrod was his chief campaign strategist, and therefore was the media-spin commander in chief. He'll also be a top player in the Obama Administration, crafting the image and use of media for the next four to eight years. So, yeah, he's the new Karl Rove - but without that sulfur smell (we hope). Beyond the U.S. presidency, the images of the Obama Administration he helps craft will shape perceptions of the U.S. and our strategic position in the world. You could argue, he's actually the most influential person in media.
2. THREE-HEADED GOOGLESAURUS (LARRY PAGE, SERGEY BRIN, & ERIC SCHMIDT)
Cofounders and CEO, Google
3. BOB IGER
President & CEO, Disney
"We're not really embracing technology, we're embracing the consumer," Iger said in 2008 of his company's bullish digital moves.
4. STEVE JOBS
5. CHRIS ANDERSON
Author/Editor in chief, Wired
"Because my background is physics and economics, I tend to go for data rather than speculation and hand waving," Anderson told The Guardian (UK).
Senior Vice President, Advertiser & Publisher Solutions, Microsoft
"The TV model is broken," head of Microsoft advertising ventures McAndrews has said. "We believe the Web site will replace the 30-second commercial as the most important vehicle for an advertiser."
Having revitalized aQuantive during his tenure as CEO, making it ripe for Microsoft's picking, McAndrews knows a thing or two about navigating the online space, and also boasts a noted competitive streak that will probably come in handy as he breathes similar life into Microsoft Advertising. Business 2.0 didn't call him "the most important adman on the Internet" for nothing.
7. RUPERT MURDOCH
Chairman and CEO, News Corp
8. RISHAD TOBACCOWALA
9. STEPHEN COLBERT
Actor/Author/Fake-Political Commentator, The Colbert Report
"Like any good newsman, I believe that if you're not scared, I'm not doing my job," Colbert said on his show.
10. SIR MARTIN SORRELL
CEO, WPP Group
"I'm not the retiring type - in any sense of the term whatsoever," Sorell told The Independent (UK) when asked if he might turn over the reigns in the near future.
Droga is the single-most awarded creative at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, with over 48 Cannes Lions and three Grand Prix. As creative chairman of his own Droga5, Droga's latest project, in partnership with Publicis Groupe and production firm Smuggler, is a cross between QVC and MTV dubbed HoneyShed.
12. DON DRAPER
Partner & Creative Director, Sterling Cooper
CEO, Havas Digital
Recently, Epperson revealed a "virtual brand network," that operates as an online trading system, with the flexibility to make buys based on how the value fluctuates for specific advertisers and their brands over time. If it sounds like a Wall Street equalities and exchange system that may be because Epperson spent years in investment banking, first at what became JP Morgan Chase and then as a member of the technology investment banking group of Advest.
14. ROGER AILES
Chairman, Fox News
"The greatest danger to journalism is a newsroom or a profession where everyone thinks alike," Ailes has said.
15. DAVID KENNY
Managing Partner, VivaKi
David Kenny can say "Internet" in 27 languages.
16. JACK KLUES
Managing Partner, VivaKi
In the future, Klues believes that even our dreams will be digital.
17. JOAQUIN HIDALGO
Vice President, Global Marketing & Soccer, Nike
Hidalgo's coinage "Just Do It" turned 20 this year. Now he tells consumers to just make their own damn shoes at NIKEiD.com.
18. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
Mayor, City of New York
19. BILL JOY
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
What might you talk about over lunch with Bill Joy, former chief scientist at Sun Microsystems and Edison of the Internet? Perhaps Joy would tell you about Ethereal, his $50 million, wind-powered "super yacht." (Fortune said Joy hoped it to be "the most efficient, eco-friendly boat afloat.") Perhaps you would discuss the ethical and safety issues inherent in advanced intelligent robotics and nanotechnology. ("But if we are downloaded into our technology, what are the chances that we will thereafter be ourselves or even human?" Joy pondered in his essay "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us.") Perhaps you would try to broach the speculation that Joy could be named chief technology officer, a new position, in President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet. ("There is no greater cause," said venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, as reported by The New York Times.) Alternately, we guess you could just make small talk about the weather and your appetizers.
20. TREVOR KAUFMAN
Kaufman followed up Advertising Week this year by going skydiving in Nepal, jumping from 12,000 feet.
21. IRWIN GOTLIEB
CEO, Group M
"I've always resented the term 'buyer,'" Gotlieb said at MediaPost's CEO Summit. "Buying is what you do when you get a shirt."
Consultant (Formerly of MTV Networks/McKinsey & Company/Booz Allen Hamilton)
The biggest dilemma about lunching with Michael Wolf is whether to break bread with him now, while he is still in transition from his former role as president-COO of MTV Networks, or when he ultimately lands in his next big gig. Either way, it's bound to be a bounty of insights and insider perspective. He knows everyone who is anyone in the business, and over the years as the industry's top management consultant, helped teach some of them what they know.
23. JEFF GOODBY
Cofounder, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
"I got interested in advertising because I couldn't find a job on a newspaper," Goodby wrote in an article in Inc. magazine.
24. KEVIN MARTIN
25. KEVIN WERBACH
Co-director of the FCC Agency Review Team for President-elect Barack Obama
Kevin Werbach is a busy man. A full-time professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at Wharton and organizer of the yearly Supernova technology conference, Werbach was recently appointed to define the new Obama administration FCC team. A net neutrality supporter and World of Warcraft devotee, Werbach, who has had his own Web site since 1995, formerly served as counsel for new technology policy at the FCC under the Clinton administration (making it seem likely that his role will continue beyond January 20) and was praised by Wired magazine as "one of the few policy wonks who really got it." Of his new position, he writes that he is excited to bring an understanding of "the transformative power of today's communications technologies" into the new administration.
26. MARTIN NISENHOLTZ
Senior Vice President, Digital Operations, New York Times Co.
27. RANDALL ROTHENBERG
A former New York Times reporter, Rothenberg preaches growing the interactive media marketplace by attracting "digital immigrants": "You have to be able to talk to [senior marketers of America's largest companies] in their language," he told Paid Content. "If you talk gobbledygook geek language, you may get some of the mystery money?...but certainly not the lion's share."
28. STEVE BALMER
29. TINA FEY
Writer & Actress, 30 Rock/Saturday Night Live
"Not since Slingblade has there been a voice that anybody could do." Tina Fey told David Letterman, describing Gov. Sarah Palin's accent.
30. SARAH FAY
CEO North America, Aegis
Lead Singer, Radiohead
To celebrate Barack Obama's presidential victory, musician Thom Yorke posted a remixed song from his solo album, The Eraser, on his band's Web site - for free. The 40-year-old frontman of Radiohead is no stranger to offering up his work to the public at no cost. The band's pay-what-you-wish policy for its 2007 album In Rainbows paid off not only as a statement about the music industry's ongoing struggles with online piracy ("The idea was like, we'll leak it, then," Yorke told Wired at the time), but also as a business decision (its 3 million sales reportedly topped the money made by the band's prior album, Hail To The Thief).
32. AL GORE
Former Vice President/Cofounder and Chairman of Current TV
"The universe would be destroyed! And as an environmentalist, I'm against that," an animated Al Gore said in a cameo on Futururama, during a moment of peril. (Gore voiced the part himself; daughter Kristin writes for the show.)
33. SHEIKH HAMAD BIN THAMER AL-THANI
Founder & Chairman, Al-Jazeera
After the Ministry of Information in Qatar, for which he was an undersecretary, was abolished, Sheik Hamad became an architect of the Qatari-financed all-news Al-Jazeera, which has expanded into a global phenomenon spreading across news, sports, entertainment and education.
34. BRIAN ROBERTS
Chairman & CEO, Comcast
35. NIGEL MORRIS
Global CEO, Isobar
Morris hardly sounds like a man whose company was named the largest digital marketing agency in the world by RECMA. "The whole industry is looking down the barrel of a gun," he said at the OMMA Global New York conference in September. Morris, however, knows how to adapt to a changing world: "Transparency and consumer control means that now the deer have guns." His advice? "Brands need to look at themselves as a service, not a product."
36. MARK READ
Strategy Director, WPP Digital
37. OPRAH WINFREY
Chief Operating Officer, Facebook
When Sheryl Sandberg was hired by Facebook as its Chief Operating Officer, she quickly gained a reputation as Mother Sheryl. "She came and kicked everybody in the ass and then gave everybody a hug," said one employee. Of course being a mom sometimes has a downside, and she's taken some heat from industry bloggers for such unthinkable acts as canceling beer-pong competitions.
But no doubt Mark Zuckerberg was trying to take his company out of the dorm room and into the boardroom when he hired her. As a former Chief of Staff to the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Sandberg says her goal is to turn Facebook into a global leader. Time to put away your RipSticks, kids.
39. MARK CUBAN
President and cofounder, HDNet/Owner, Dallas Mavericks
Cuban has read Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead in its entirety three times.
40. ESTHER DYSON
Non-Executive Director, WPP Group
41. WILL WRIGHT
Game Designer, The Sims/Spore
"Watching someone play a game is a different experience than actually holding the controller and playing it yourself. Vastly different," Wright wrote in Wired, "Imagine that all you knew about movies was gleaned through observing the audience in a theater - but that you had never watched a film."
42. DALE HERIGSTAD
Chief Creative Officer, Schematic
An influential thinker who has been oft quoted as saying, "Designing digital context is the next creative assignment," Herigstad visualizes things most people can barely conceptualize.
43. BOB GREENBERG
Chairman, CEO & Global Chief Creative Officer, R/GA
44. JOHN BATTELLE, FOUNDER
Chairman & CEO, Federated Media Publications
45. MARC ANDREESSEN
Valley investor (Netscape Founder)
"In the startup world, you're either a genius or an idiot," Andreessen told Fast Company. "You're never just an ordinary guy trying to get through the day."
46. ALEX BOGUSKY
CCO and Co-chairman, Crispin Porter + Bogusky
If you ever have the opportunity to do lunch with Alex Bogusky, here's something you should do: Take a moment to scan the room and watch all the eyes watching him. Some may be peeking at him, because they know he's the ad industry's top creative mind, and the spirit behind Boulder-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Others may simply have mistaken him as an errant rock star, actor or cover model. The guy projects charisma that sometimes seems to overshadow the deep think simmering beneath the bangs.
47. CRAIG NEWMARK
Founder & Director, Craigslist
When Stephen Colbert thanked Newmark for killing the American newspaper, Newmark replied, "Well, I'd like to take credit for that ... somebody accused me of being the anti-Christ of print media."
48. JON STEWART
Actor/Author/Fake News Anchor, The Daily Show
"The press is 6-year-olds playing soccer," Stewart told Entertainment Weekly of this year's presidential election coverage. "Nobody has a position, it's just 'Where's the ball? Where's the ball? Sarah Palin has the ball!'"
49. MARTHA STEWART
Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
"You know, in China they say, 'The thinner the chopsticks; the higher the social status,'" Stewart told The New Yorker. "Of course, I got the thinnest I could find?.... That's why people hate me."
50. LORI SCHWARTZ
Senior Vice President, Director, Interpublic Emerging Media Lab
Schwartz might be the only one on Variety's list of Top 30 Executives Shaping the Evolution of Media and Technology who you may also see on stage at the Improv.
51. ALAN COHEN
CEO, OMD USA
Alan Cohen occasionally still drinks Dr Pepper when no one is looking (even though OMD reps Pepsi).
52. ALBERT CHENG
Executive Vice President, Digital Media, Disney-ABC Television Group
53. DAVE MORGAN
Chairman & Partner, The Tennis Company (Founder and Former CEO & Chairman of Tacoda)
"Tennis is an underleveraged sport with amazing numbers. Enthusiasts are international, affluent, active, passionate, loyal and most importantly, are growing," Morgan said, explaining his route from founding RealMedia and Tacoda to sitting atop a niche publishing company and working with Chris Evert.
54. GIAN FULGONI
Chairman & Cofounder, comScore
Tossing off bon mots such as "Not everything that can be measured matters, and usually what matters is not easy to measure," Fulgoni might have a future as an existential poet. And he says fun things about Google. Like pointing out that it hasn't built measurement products "with the objective of entering the market research industry and being an 'independent arbiter' of where ad planners should put their money. Rather, they appear to have built tools that help facilitate the movement of display ad dollars to Google and its ad network."
55. TIM HANLON
Executive Vice President & Managing Director, VivaKi
56. SUSAN WHITING
Vice Chair, The Nielsen Company
57. JAMES CAMERON
Filmmaker & Producer
Cameron is making his bet on 3D in the next few years. He's developed a specialized stereoscopic camera, and is banking on his movie Avatar to bring 3D mainstream. "Stereo production is the next big thing," he said at an advertising conference this year. "We are born seeing in three dimensions. Most animals have two eyes and not one. There is a reason I think."
Professor, Columbia Law School
Policy makers ranging from President-elect Barack Obama to FCC Chair Kevin Martin have endorsed net neutrality, or the view that broadband providers should treat all Web traffic equally. Much of that stance can be traced to 36-year-old Wu, who coined the term in an influential 2003 paper. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed he wrote, "In an information economy, the supply and price of bandwidth matters, in the way that oil prices matter: not just for gas stations, but for the whole economy."
59. JOE UVA
60. TED TURNER
Billionaire Philanthropist/Media Mogul/Restaurateur
Turner owns more land than any other American, and uses much of it for his bison herds, as he works to popularize the idea of dining on bison meat.
61. TIM WESTERGREN
Chief Strategy Officer & Founder, Pandora/Music Genome Project
"The only way to help people discover songs that they've never heard before is to understand the intrinsic qualities of that piece of music," Westergren told Novedge, explaining how his new recommendations-based service worked.
62. SI NEWHOUSE
Chairman and CEO, Advance Publications
"'I don't think I'm a hail-fellow-well-met," notoriously press-shy Newhouse, told The New York Times.
63. JIM STENGEL
Jim Stengel LLC/Former Chief Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble
64. RICH MINER
Director, Google Mobile
65. ALEXANDRE MARS
CEO, Phone Valley
TREY PARKER AND MATT STONE
Creators, South Park/Producers
When did MTV Networks' Comedy Central replace MTV as the arbiter of hip, young sensibility, and when exactly did Trey Parker and Matt Stone elevate the sophomoric, bad-taste humor of South Park to divine comedic commentary of all things wrong with America? Don't let the juvenility fool you. There's a lot of wisdom coming from the foul mouths of these babes, and Parker and Stone continue to use low-brows as a cover for some high-level thinking about media. They're intellectually curious and mine the best of digital, from the online interaction of their SouthParkStudios.com to an almost instant send-up of the real conspiracy behind Barack Obama's election.
President, Shanghai Media Group
To Li Ruigang, the Chinese government's command over media certainly hasn't been a burden. While the president of the 7-year-old Shanghai Media Group has described the company as a "state asset," it certainly hasn't operated like one. Under Li, SMG (China's second largest media group) has grown to encompass 16 national digital pay channels and a mobile TV channel, created partnerships with the likes of MTV and Dow Jones and even releases a handful of digital films each year. Not too shabby for a guy who counts Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone as buddies, was named "Showman of the Year" by Chinese Variety magazine and hasn't even hit 40 yet.
68. WENDA HARRIS MILLARD
Co-CEO, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
"I am a huge proponent of leveraging technology to help us buy and sell advertising, but I don't think that technology can create great advertising," Millard said, explaining her "pork bellies" remark to AllThingsD.
CEO & Chairman, Baidu.com
If you don't know Robin Li, you should. That's because Li has done something no one else has - sorry Microsoft - beat Google at the search game (at least on his home turf). Li, founder of the Chinese search engine Baidu.com (pronounced "buy-do," a Chinese word representing, in essence, the persistent quest for the ideal), operates the top search engine in China (about 70 percent of the market, per the AP). And comScore ranks it as the third most-used worldwide (following the Big G and Yahoo, but beating - sorry again - Microsoft). It's no wonder that Li is an icon for Chinese tech geeks.
70. KEVIN LEE
Chairman & CEO, DidIt
71. BRIAN WIESER
Senior Vice President, Director of Industry Analysis, MAGNA
72. KEN AULETTA
Author & Journalist
"It's really dangerous for a journalist to think about 'influence,'" Auletta told MediaBistro. "Our job is to ask questions, and if we're puffed up with our own self-importance we will want to answer questions, not ask them."
73. ERIC HUGGERS
Director of Future Media & Technology, BBC
Co-director, MIT Comparative Media Studies Program
When he announced he was leaving MIT at the end of this year to take a position at USC, Jenkins said, "I have decided that the phrase 'bitter-sweet' is inadequate for such a moment, preferring to adopt the phrase, 'Brutal-Sublime' to capture the extreme highs and lows I feel at what is for me a significant transitional moment in my life."
75. JOHN DOERR
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Doerr told Fast Company, "Jeff Bezos came to Kleiner Perkins because, in his words, we are a center of gravity in the Internet." His next move: greentech.
76. DIMITRY SHAPIRO
Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Veoh Networks Inc.
Shapiro might be building a better YouTube.
77. GENE KEENAN
Vice President of Mobile Services, Isobar
CEO & Chief Technology Officer, Varitalk
Tired of Britney Spears answering every time you call one of your friends? Blame Frederick Lowe who, as the CEO and Chief Technology Officer for Chicage-based Varitalk, designed the patented software that delivers "personalized audio output from real human voices." Are you more likely to call Mom if there is a chance Fifty Cent will ask you to leave a message (and don't forget to buy Vitamin Water)? Maybe not, but nonetheless, Lowe, a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, boasts that "Voicemail is a nearly perfect viral application."
79. TOM BROKAW
Author, Journalist, NBC
80. NATE SILVER
81. EMILIO AZCARRAGA
Chairman & CEO, Grupo Televisa
82. GINA BIANCHINI
CEO & Cofounder, Ning
83. JON SWALLEN
Senior Vice President, Research, TNS Media Intelligence
Wales has long disputed Larry Sanger's role in the creation of Wikipedia. Wales' Wiki entry includes quotes from a Wired interview in which Sanger gripes about Wales' efforts to change his own entry: "It does seem that Jimmy is attempting to rewrite history. But this is a futile process because in our brave new world of transparent activity and maximum communication, the truth will be out."
85. PAUL WOOLMINGTON
Founding Partner, Naked Communications
Naked founder Woolmington preaches brand transparency - a philosophy he has always practiced: "When [my grandparents] came to visit, I was running around with probably a pair of shorts and nothing much else on, and speaking Swahili fluently," he said in a podcast.
86. ROB DESENA
Managing Director, IO Global
87. JON MANDEL
88. HOWARD GARDNER
Professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
89. OMAR TAWAKOL
90. TOM ROGERS
CEO, TiVo, Hybrid Television Services
Prime Minister, Italy
Berlusconi is worth, at last count by Forbes, some $9.4 billion dollars. Indeed, the influence that Italy's three-time prime minister wields over his country's media is twofold. Privately, his Finivest holding company owns huge stakes in Italian television, publishing and sports; publicly, he's, well, the prime minister. Regardless, his wealth and power are probably the least interesting things about Berlusconi, whom the BBC, in a story detailing his "controversy and flamboyance," also noted was "perma-tanned [and] wrinkle-free."
During his infamous public career, the 72-year-old has dodged repeated corruption accusations and been on trial six times. Last year, his wife, Veronica Lario, wrote a public letter published in the newspaper La Repubblica demanding her husband apologize for publicly flirting with other women (and apologize he did, also via open letter). Heck, in keeping with his history of making controversial public comments (Spain's new government has too many women, for instance) just last month he called Barack Obama "young, handsome and even-tanned." How did Berlusconi dismiss the detractors of his self-described "cute" joke? "Imbeciles," he said, "of which there are too many."
92. RAFAT ALI
Founder, Publisher & Editor, PaidContent
93. DAVID VERKLIN
CEO, Canoe Ventures
94. HENRY BLODGET
Cofounder, CEO & Editor in Chief, Silicon Alley Insider
A short list of insults hurled Blodget's way of late, as recounted in a recent Wired story: "boldface liar," "scum," "arrogant prick," "dirtbag," "unethical," "as crooked as they come," and "Web 1.0, bubble-creating has-been."
95. JASON JIANG
CEO & Chairman, Focus Media
96. ARIANNA HUFFINGTON
Founder & CEO, Huffington Post
97. LAUREL TOUBY
"Men love boas," Touby told The Village Voice about her trademark accessory. "It makes a woman seem more approachable - tactile, even."
98. MIKE WALRATH
Founder & Senior Vice President, Right Media
99. JIM LOUDERBACK
"True success with Internet video means thinking of it not as a farm team for existing media?...?but as a new way to communicate, a new medium with its own story-telling arc, rhythm and feel," Louderback has said.
100. NICK DENTON
Founder & CEO, Gawker Media
The man who monetized the crazy idea that you can actually make money off of blogs - you know, those things that Sarah Palin thinks kids in their pajamas write while sitting in their parents' basements - deserves a place at the table for either a stroke of dumb luck or keen media foresight. The momentum continues for Denton's Gawker Media empire, 11 sites strong, which recently hit a high of 22 million unique monthly visitors.