THE WIRE 50: The Most Influential People In Media This Year

the wire 50

It has been a roller coaster ride in media this year.

A jaw-dropping trip of high highs, low lows, and twists and turns that left many people feeling like they’d been turned entirely upside down — sometimes all in less than a week.

The year began with Steve Jobs’ introduction of the iPad, a device which increasingly looks to be to print what the iPod was to music, and ended with…well, where to begin: Julian Assange, Sarah Palin, and rallies, rallies, rallies. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With that in mind The Wire has put together a list of the 50 most influential people in media. 

They may not all be getting the biggest ratings, or possess the most recognisable faces, but in a quickly changing media world they are exerting an unmistakable influence on how, where, and when we consume information.

Click Through The Wire 50 >
Full Coverage:

In A-Z Order

The Complete List 1-50

Breakdown by Sector

Bookmark The Wire or follow us on Facebook.


Disagree with our picks? Let us know what you think in the comments or Twitter: #tw50


We would like to thank the many readers who took the time to send us nominations. We would also like to thank intern Joseph Alexiou for his extensive work on this list. Also involved in the selection or creation of The Wire 50: Henry Blodget, Glynnis MacNicol, Nicholas Carlson, Ujala Sehgal, Jessica Liebman, and Gabrien Symons.

1. Julian Assange

Co-founder, Wikileaks

Is Julian Assange the future of journalism or the end of it?

It likely depends on who you talk to. But all signs points tentatively to the former, and anyway, predicting the end of journalism is so 2008.

In less than a year Assange has managed to change forever the idea of transparency and accountability as it pertains to governments and war and national security. At the same time, he reinforced the importance of journalistic institutions as arbiters of information, and managed to set embarrassed government officials scrambling to boot.

2. Steve Jobs

CEO, Apple

Just two years ago the media was consumed with writing its own memorial service.

With the invention of the iPad -- speculation of its failure now the faintest wisps of near-forgotten memories -- Steve Jobs has literally placed in the hands of both consumers and creators a tangible confluence of technology and media. The iPad would like to be to print what the iPod was to CD's, both a neutralizer and a revitalizer.

3. Sarah Palin

Former vice-presidential candidate, pundit, reality TV star, Twitterer, media obsession

Is there any one else on the planet who can dominate days-long media cycles, and alter entire political platforms, with the posting of a single Tweet? No.

Sarah Palin has had the media by the puppet strings since she walked onstage at the 2008 RNC convention. In 2010 she proved the more she yanks, the more the media dances.

4. Glenn Beck

Host, The Glenn Beck Show

A television and talk radio host that needs very little introduction (even the White House runs scared from him from time to time.)

Glenn Beck hosted a rally that launched another rally, needs only to mention a book to send it sailing to the top of the Amazon charts, has one of the top radio shows in the country (er, notwithstanding New York), and is now attempting to take on the New York Times with his new website The Blaze. Watch out Oprah?

All he needs to do now is launch his own television network and he really will be the new Oprah.

5. Jon Stewart

Host, the Daily Show

Perhaps nothing encapsulates our times better than the fact the NYT compared Jon Stewart -- he of the fake news problem -- to Edward R. Murrow.

Following his Rally to Restore Sanity, Stewart made ratings history by beating rivals David Letterman and Jay Leno to become the highest-rated talk show in the 18 - 49 range in October 2010 -- the first person to do so since 2000, at least.

More importantly, he is credited with effectively pressuring Congress to push through the 9/11 First Responders bill. Earlier this week, he dropped the joking around to give a moving monologue following the shootings in Arizona.

6. Oprah Winfrey

Media mogul and television host

Oprah Winfrey returned to centre spotlight this year -- her last on network TV (who knew that was even possible!) -- with the lead-up and launch of her own cable network: OWN.

In keeping with Oprah, OWN will be nice and hopeful and optimistic... pretty much the opposite of everything else on cable. (Or at least on cable news.) Also: She will likely be profitable within the year.

7. Nick Denton

Founder, Gawker Media

Not all that long ago Nick Denton was scorned by the MSM as representing everything that was wrong with media.

Now he is the subject of of a New Yorker profile, and the person most sought after to explain to befuddled media types how to survive. Or at least, how not to become completely irrelevant.

8. Arianna Huffington

Co-founder, the Huffington Post

At Business Insider's 2010 IGNITION conference, Henry Blodget asked several interviewees: Will HuffPo be worth more than the New York Times in five years? A few answered: 'Maybe.'

In her own words, Arianna Huffington said that in the future everyone (not only HuffPo) will be 'flourishing,' that she had no competition with Tina Brown, and that, no, she wasn't going to run for president.

Did we mention that profitable thing?

9. Rupert Murdoch

Chairman, News Corp.

Let's just deal with Rupert Murdoch the 2010 version. Yes, MySpace is a total disaster. However! He seems impervious to the recession as News Corp keeps expanding and pulling in a profit (thanks to Fox).

Also: The Daily. Murdoch is launching a daily paper designed solely for the iPad. According to reports it will have no inbound or outbound links -- the bread and butter of online media. Let's just say it: both of those decisions require major cojones.

Rupe has spent the last year snapping up half of Manhattan's young, savvy media talent. Attention must be paid.

10. Mark Zuckerberg

Chief Executive Officer, Facebook

Granted Facebook is slowly conquering the world. Mark Zuckerberg's foresight and instinct allowed him to remain at the head of one of the defining revolutions of the digital age. According to TIME he's 2010's person of the year.

But in recent months Facebook has also increasingly been the platform through which we consume our media. Sharing is...well, how we all live now. And Facebook is fast becoming media's answer to circulation.

Also, there was that movie.

11. Drudge Report

News Aggregator

Drudge is still Drudge.

Literally, if you were to have fallen asleep in 1999 and woken up today Drudge might be the only thing on the Internet you did recognise. Which makes the fact that it is still the biggest traffic driver on the Internet all the more amazing. But that's what it does -- it drives humongous amounts of traffic. Nuff said.

12. Keith Olbermann

Political commentator

Keith Olbermann, considered by many to be the de facto head of MSNBC, may have had his biggest story this year: getting ruthlessly suspended from MSNBC for failing to disclose political donations...for a grand total of three days.

His caustic criticisms of all things Palin, Fox, and sometimes Obama do for the left what O'Reilly has long done for the right, and almost always get repurposed for the blogosphere the next day. It's a presence he has extended to Twitter (has he ever!)... Never a tweet to small to illicit a response, or many, from Olby.

13. Andrew Ross Sorkin

Columnist, the New York Times

An especially prolific (and young) financial writer for the times, Andrew Ross Sorkin is also the brains behind DealBook -- an aggregator of financial news (focused on Wall Street and deals between major companies), and a significant player in moving the Times toward a strong online presence, especially in rapidly-paced business and financial news. His book, Too Big to Fail, won the 2010 Gerald Loeb Award.

14. Bill Simmons

Sports journalist

Bill Simmons' columns are read by millions. His podcast is huge. He has an enormous Twitter following, but more importantly, he has a devoted Twitter following. His book was an immediate bestseller. In short: Simmons is the most beloved sports writer of our time.

Did we miss anything?

15. Politico

Political newspaper

There have been many, many moments in the last two years where more than one person has wondered whether Politico is the tail wagging Presidential dog, so successful has the site been at 'winning the morning' and driving the national political news cycle.

No story is too small!

Mike Allen, Ben Smith, Jonathan Martin, Patrick Gavin, John Harris... now go name five Washington Post reporters off the top of your head.

16. Michael Arrington

Founder, TechCrunch

Cited by magazines such as Wired, Forbes, and TIME to be essentially a demigod of the internet, Michael Arrington's blog is one of the most visited sites available.

This past September he shocked everyone when he sold TechCrunch to AOL for many, many millions of dollars. Whether the purchase will save AOL or sink TechCrunch remains to be seen.

17. Conan O'Brien

Talk show host

Conan bounced back from his unceremonious loss of the Tonight Show to turn himself into a huge media force: starting his Twitter account in late February 2010, he amassed over 300,000 followers within 24 hours -- his subsequent messages were some of the first public statements made since his NBC debacle. He now boasts over 2 million followers and is beating Leno in the ratings.

18. Tina Brown

Co-founder, The Daily Beast

Two years ago everyone predicted Tina Brown's Daily Beast wouldn't last the year.

Yet here she is two years later overseeing the (somewhat rocky) merger between the Daily Beast and Newsweek.

The doubters are a lot quieter this time around

19. The Atlantic


Who would ever have suspected the 153-year-old Washington-based monthly magazine would sail into 2011 in the black?

But, yes: The Atlantic turned a profit in 2010.

Undoubtedly its commitment to curating a strong (and aesthetically pleasing!) online presence, with dynamic voices, and jumping way ahead of the game of similarly focused publications has a lot to do with this.

Lesson: It is possible to be smart, online, in print, and profitable.

20. Nikki Finke

Columnist and founder,

This is the only picture that exists of Nikki Finke, despite Nick Denton once offering a sizable reward to the person who scored a new one.

And yet, this is a woman that had Hollywood moguls running scared of her posts.

21. Jake Tapper

Correspondent, ABC News

Jake Tapper is ABC's senior White House correspondent. Were you aware of that? Tapper's influence has extended through Twitter in such a way that to many, his ABC affiliation is probably second to his Twitter handle.

It's online influence that made him a fan favourite during his interim host duties for 'This Week' -- a time some viewers look back on fondly since Christiane Amanpour's less than stunning takeover of the show.

22. Hot Air

News blog

Penned by Ed Morrissey and the Allahpundit, Hot Air (founded by writer and political commentator Michelle Malkin) is one of the most widely-read conservative -- some would say libertarian -- news blogs in the country.

Even Jon Stewart name-checked Allahpundit as one of his must-reads in a New York profile earlier this year.

23. New York Post

Daily Newspaper

The New York Post is essentially a killer blog that has been printed for subway riders boasting what are arguably the greatest headline writers known to man. OK, maybe not arguably -- they are the greatest.

Amazingly, of late the Post is also reclaiming its hold as the city's top purveyor of gossip and inside media scoops. Likely this has as much to do with Gawker deciding to go national with its coverage, but who could have predicted that in 2011 the Post would reestablish itself as a must-read for the blogger set?

24. Morning Joe

Talk show, MSNBC

Morning Joe may not be the most popular morning show -- the daily morning news panel hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski is the second-most viewed in the country (after FOX & Friends).

But it is the morning choice of the media tastemaker set.

25. Shep Smith

News anchor

Even if you don't like Fox News you love Shep Smith. And so does Fox -- he just got a new three-year deal from the News Corp. channel.

Nothing quite lights up Twitter with pure delight like a car chase (or a dog chase) between the hours of 3-4pm. However, Shep flexed his more serious muscles last month when he took up the 9/11 First Responders torch from Jon Stewart and named every single GOP congressman who refused to come on his show and defend their opposition vote.

For a while there, he was also the lone vote of support at Fox News for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

26. David Remnick

Editor, The New Yorker

So, while the rest of Conde Nast continues to flounder through 2010, David Remnick's penny-pinching saved the magazine from an otherwise-mandatory 25 per cent budget cut.

He also managed to keep the magazine firmly, and importantly, grounded in long-form, often investigative journalism while jumping fearlessly into the deep end of new media.

Also: He wrote The Bridge, a 672-page biography of President Barack Obama, in his 'free' time.

27. Media Matters

Media watchdog

Media Matters is your overachieving friend in high school who never broke rules and had no sense of humour.

However! On exam day they could always be counted on to have taken the most comprehensive notes.

Lately Media Matters has become Fox Matters (not in a good way) -- with a special focus on Glenn Beck and zero sense of online fun or irony. That said, the media would be worse for their absence (and their encyclopedic database of conservative radio and television clips).

Their most recent coup was publishing a memo revealing that a Fox News exec had directed staff to change how they described the health care bill to make it sound less appealing.

The rest of the time they just want you to know they are outraged on your behalf that someone on TV or radio said something stupid.

28. Mediaite

Media blog

When Mediaite launched in July of 2009 it was to a resounding chorus of 'why does the world need another media blog?'

A year and a half later the site has cracked the Technocrati Top 10 and established itself as a go-to for its cable coverage and comprehensive, viral video clips.

(*Full disclosure: Wire editor Glynnis MacNicol was one of the founding editors.)

29. Andrew Sullivan

Writer, The Atlantic

Andrew Sullivan, somewhat like Drudge, has enjoyed online relevance for a long, long time. So long in fact he has no need for commenters on his website.

Sullivan led The Atlantic's charge onto the internet, and can be credited with much of its original success there. His mix of short punchy posts, videos, pictures, and long thought pieces can sometimes make him seem like a one-stop shop.

His coverage of the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandals, gay marriage, and DADT are always impressive. His devotion to outing the 'truth' about Trig Palin, less so.

30. Brian Stelter

Columnist, the New York Times

If you're looking for an example of the future of reporting, look no further. The NYT's star young reporter Brian Stelter has one foot in the print world, and the other squarely in new media, where he is a one-man media machine.

Earlier this year he documented his impressive weight loss on a specially designated Twitter feed, and then wrote a piece about it for the NYT.

31. David Carr

Media writer, the New York Times

NYT columnist David Carr is an object lesson in why it's important for journalists to brand themselves as individuals.

A weekly columnist at the NYT and contributor to the paper's Media Decoder blog, Carr's bestselling memoir Night of the Gun and sharp, active Twitter feed has extended his influence and relevance far beyond his NYT byline.

32. Charlie Rose

TV host, journalist

Completely bare of any of the bells and whistles of network or cable news, Charlie Rose's PBS interview show provides one thing: long, intelligent conversations.

That he is nearly the only person on TV to do so is what keeps him as relevant and necessary as he is.

33. Glenn Greenwald

Columnist, Salon

A constitutional lawyer, Glenn Greenwald's blog at Salon is a place for in-depth, sometimes caustic, frequently damning, and always unrelenting coverage on many things -- but of particular note this year, the WikiLeaks case.

Last month he reported on the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning at the hands of the U.S. government, which resulted in a UN investigation. Then he showed CNN how journalism is done.

34. Piers Morgan

Host, Piers Morgan Tonight

A former America's Got Talent judge, Piers Morgan was hired late last year to replace Larry King. Translation: Morgan was hired to save CNN.

Not an easy job. As his show doesn't debut until next week, we have no idea whether he will be successful. But considering how he has stormed Twitter since landing on America's shores to prepare for his cable stint, one imagines his chances are pretty solid.

Meanwhile, one can only hope there is a Morgan-Olbermann Twitter duel in the works in the near future.

35. Sartorialist

Fashion blog

In just a few years Scott Schuman's street fashion blog has gone from being a guilty cult pleasure to redefining international fashion editorials.

Along the way he has launched careers of women he photographs frequently to giving new meaning to what is considered both beautiful and fashionable.

36. Matt Taibbi


In 2009 Matt Taibbi switched strides and moved from politics over to the financial world. His notoriety is especially recognised in a column in which he refers to Goldman Sachs as 'a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.'

He is also the best example of a long-form magazine writer who has managed to remain germane even as the form lost some of its relevance in the online world.

37. Howie Kurtz

Host, CNN's Reliable Sources; Washington bureau chief, The Daily Beast

After years of reporting on media for the Washington Post (and doing the TV thing as well), Howie Kurtz took a new position at Tina Brown's Daily Beast.

Turns out you can teach a print reporter the Internet. Kurtz adjusted to the daily slog of online fairly quickly, and now turns out media scoops on a bi-weekly basis.

Oh, he also has a Sunday show on CNN.

38. Andrew Breitbart

Commentator and web publisher

The world's most successful media manipulator?

Earlier this year Andrew Breitbart ignited a media and political firestorm when he posted an edited video of a woman named Shirley Sherrod making a speech at the NAACP which 'sounded' racist.

Turns out they were anything but. But by that point Sherrod had already been fired and condemned by the White House and the NAACP and the damage had been done.

Before that Breitbart was a strong vocal supporter of pimp-poser James O'Keefe. Yeah. See the first sentence again.

39. reddit

News aggregator

One of the best obscure news aggregators available online, reddit users vote to move online stories up in popularity, bringing the most prominent ones to the front page. The stories trending on the site often end up eventually bubbling up in mainstream news, but folks following reddit often get there first.

40. Xeni Jardin

Journalist and media blogger, Boing Boing

Tech expert and self-professed internet geek, Xeni Jardin has navigated the cross sections of blogs, journalism, and technology since the late 1990s. Blogging at the helm of popular Boing Boing (and also contributing to NPR, Popular Science, and Wired), Jardin's media influence is at the same time very '21st century' and, for those in the know, a fine vintage.

41. Fred Mwangaguhunga

42. The Awl

Culture Blog

You can be smart and successful on the Internet.

This New York blog founded by former Gawker (and Radar) alumni Choire Sicha and Alex Balk reached a very reasonable level of sustainability (revenue of at least $200,000 in 2009) in a short period of time. The idea, to build up readership with good writing, not search engine tricks, seems to have hit a chord; it reminded a Vanity Fair interviewer of the Gawker of ages past. Except smarter, naturally.

43. Graydon Carter

Editor-in-Chief, Vanity Fair

Five years ago most media people would have told you they'd like to be Graydon Carter one day.

These days it's unclear anyone is gunning for his job, primarily because it's unclear that it will still exist in five years. However, Carter has managed to negotiate a comfortable spot in the print world somewhere between Hollywood nostalgia (always a best-seller) and providing deeper background on current events (see this month's issue on Assange and HuffPo).

44. Betsy Morgan

President, The Blaze

After running the HuffPo for two years, Betsy Morgan will be moving, quite literally, to the other end of the spectrum to run The Blaze, Glenn Beck's new website. Her mission, apparently, is to 'broaden out beyond politically based information to cover other topics of interest to Mr. Beck.'

Considering Beck's enormous media influence, Morgan has a big task ahead of her.

45. Dan Savage

Advice columnist, The Stranger

A nationally syndicated sex advice columnist and commentator, Dan Savage has made a career by being an outspoken representative for alternative lifestyles, and gay men in particular. Aside from his numerous TV appearances (and feuds with conservative political types), Savage's impact was most succinctly felt by the launching of his 'It Gets Better' project, a video blogging endeavour that provoked responses from a plethora of big voices in the media, from celebrities like Kathie Griffin and Zachary Quinto to President Obama.

46. Rachel Sklar

Media blogger

A former corporate lawyer, Rachel Sklar has been a media blogger and, frankly, personality, since the early days of new media most recently as editor-at-large at Mediaite.

This year she launched 'Change the Ratio,' putting a spotlight directly on the lack of women in tech, and in the process managed to set off a firestorm of debate throughout the industry, a sure sign of relevance.

47. Greg Mitchell

Journalist, The Nation

Liveblogging went out of fashion a few year's back when Twitter arrived.

However, when Greg Mitchell revived it over at his Nation media blog in order to cover the WikiLeaks debacle, he provided readers (and bloggers!) with an invaluable resource and as a result made himself the go-to resource for all things Assange.

He is now on day 47.

48. David Folkenflik

Media Reporter, NPR

David Folkenflik's media coverage appears on various segments on WNYC (Morning Edition, All Things Considered), as well as on the public radio station's website. Also: Twitter.

In October he was put in the uncomfortable position of having to report on his employer's role in the firing of Juan Williams -- something he handled admirably.

49. Jim Romenesko

Journalist, the Poynter Institute

Jim Romenesko has far from the most widely-read blog on the Internet, but his blog continues to be a must-read for journalists and media. Romenesko is news without the spin (and few are the media folk who don't get a secret thrill to get picked up there.)

50. Lorin Stein

Editor, The Paris Review

Lorin Stein left his job as senior editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux last year to head the Paris Review, the storied American literary magazine now competing with emerging or edgier journals like n+1 and McSweeneys Quarterly. In his first year as editor, Stein has already redesigned the Paris Review's website, introduced The Paris Review Daily, a blog by the editors, and made the entire run of the journal's phenomenal author interviews available for free online. The 57 year-old literary journal in 2011 is as exciting and influential as it has ever been.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.