Here Are All of This Year’s Hot List Digital Winners

1

Digital Editor of the Year

Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed

Photo: Jeremy Goldberg

A few years back, Peretti produced something that went viral. He challenged himself to do it again. And he did. Then, nobody thought you could engineer viral, but Peretti saw the power of social publishing clearer than anybody else. “I’ve spent over a decade thinking about how ideas spread,” he said at South by Southwest this year. Indeed, the Web has morphed from a portal and search-driven marketplace to a medium dominated by social content. And under Peretti’s leadership, BuzzFeed has proven that online publishing can mix the smart and serious (witness its political and business coverage) with the extremely light. It’s tapped into a Gen Y Web culture that few in traditional media have managed to via its particular brand of commentary, GIFs and, of course, all those lists. Peretti’s not an editor in the traditional sense—and yet, it is his editorial vision that is setting the agenda for the modern Web.

10 cats who make the Web’s most engaging content (and some of the goofiest faces) 

Photo: Jeremy Goldberg

1. Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed co-founder and CEO
2. Matt Stopera, director of creative projects
3. Ben Smith, editor in chief
4. Miriam Elder, foreign editor
5. Saeed Jones, LGBT editor
6. Gavon Laessig, homepage editor
7. Steve Kandell, long-form editor
8. Adrian Carrasquillo, reporter
9. Jessica Misener, senior editor
10. Summer Anne Burton, managing editorial director

2

Digital Executive of the Year

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook 

Photo: Martin Schoeller

She turned the catchphrase “lean in” into a best-selling book, a cultural moment, then a movement. Everywhere she goes, she is asked about running for office. As much as any other individual, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, represents Silicon Valley power—and the might of professional women everywhere. This year, Sandberg, who oversees functions including sales, marketing and business development at the social net, helped transform the platform into the backbone of digital advertising. Facebook now reaches a mind-boggling 1.2 billion earthlings—and while teens may be fleeing for hipper climes ever since their moms crashed the party, the brand has come to define the mobile ad space (fully half of Facebook’s revenue—$900 million last quarter—now comes from smart devices). As far as her own personal finances, Sandberg, having achieved a net worth estimated at north of $2 billion, finds herself breathing the same rarefied air as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.

3

Hottest Digital Brand and Hottest in Native Advertising

BuzzFeed

Is BuzzFeed overhyped? Perhaps. Has it built its name on cat pictures and ultimately pointless posts about ’90s TV shows—among them, “The Ultimate Guide to Saved by the Bell Fashion”? Absolutely. Is nearly every Web publisher, in the wake of its wildly successful formula, experimenting with GIFs and listicles, and aiming to produce content designed first and foremost to go viral? Yes, with a capital Gen Y. Then, there’s BuzzFeed’s expertise in native advertising—something else every publisher is falling over itself to replicate. Its content isn’t all fun and games, turning its attention to hard news and itself making news (and embarrassing a plagiarizing Sen. Rand Paul) in the process. It all makes BuzzFeed not only the voice of the millennial generation but also perhaps the most influential online publisher of the last decade.

Readers' Choice Poll - Native Advertising
Sharethrough

Readers' Choice Poll - Hottest Digital Brand
Buzzfeed

4

Hottest News Site

The Guardian

How do you establish a venerable British newspaper brand in the U.S. where the market for content is already beyond crowded? Find yourself an Edward Snowden and proceed to break wide open a story that shakes up geopolitics and the tech biz while riling up nearly every U.S. citizen. While scoop master Glenn Greenwald left for a new billionaire-backed Web venture, The Guardian is already part of the news diet of a growing number of Americans.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Huffington Post

5

Hottest YouTube Channel

AwesomenessTV

Brian Robbins has had a long career in TV and film, but when he saw how differently his kids were consuming content, he dived into the world of online video headfirst, launching YouTube’s tween/teen-targeted AwesomenessTV in 2012. Over the past year, AwesomenessTV has rolled out a stream of original series, ranging from The View-esque IMO to music video/teen drama mashup Side Effects. Two hundred million views and nearly 1 million subscribers led to an AwesomenessTV sketch series on Nick. And last spring, DreamWorks bought the barely year-old company for $33 million. Awesome, indeed.

Readers' Choice Poll
Smosh

6

Hottest Sports App

MLB At Bat

Major League Baseball wasn’t exactly known for being on its marketing game compared to pro football and basketball. But official mobile app MLB At Bat is changing all that, having generated 10 million downloads this season alone—60 percent of users visiting every day. A free version offers real-time scores, game schedules, breaking news and divisional standings. Baseball aficionados who fork over $15 for the premium experience can listen to any MLB game on the radio and watch one live contest every day during the regular season. For the playoffs, the app offered exclusive camera angles. With MLB At Bat already GPS-ready in certain sports venues, recently came word that the league plans to roll out Apple’s iBeacon indoor-mapping technology in select stadiums in 2014.

Readers' Choice Poll
WatchESPN

7

Hottest Ascendant Social Brand

Vine

When Twitter launched Vine this past January, everyone wondered about the six-second limit it put on smartphone-wielding video auteurs. The world quickly learned that the sky is the limit when it comes to taut social videos—which did nothing short of transforming mobile media and marketing in 2013. The buzz was strong enough to elicit an Instagram video competitor from Facebook in May. And by the fall, Dunkin’ Donuts, Trident and Virgin Mobile were all utilizing those grainy Vines in their TV ads, bridging the gap between broadcast and digital in eye-opening fashion. And yet, Vine’s greatest accomplishment may be that those finicky millennials think it’s cool.

Readers' Choice Poll
BuzzFeed

8

Hottest Music Platform

Spotify

It was only a few years ago that Pandora owned the digital music space. But then along came Spotify, which now boasts 24 million listeners worldwide. The Swedish company doesn’t break out audience figures by country, but prior to entering the U.S. market, it had only half its current following. The service has refined the tricky practice of recommending tunes to peers, enabling them to create numerous playlists and follow those with like musical tastes. Perhaps the ultimate testament to its power: Watercooler chatter about the latest artist no doubt will have somebody asking, “Are they on Spotify?”

Readers' Choice Poll
iHeartRadio

9

Hottest General App

Instagram

When an app adds 50 million users in a six-month period, topping 150 million active members (including Kim Kardashian’s derriere), it has good reason to be considered the top app around. Twitter’s Vine launched this year, giving rise to the six-second video clip. So, Instagram released its own video-sharing tool, bestowing on users 15 seconds of video freedom. Instagram introduced ads (the first, from fashion brand Michael Kors, hit last month). So far, the ads have received plenty of “likes.” But, alert: They’ve spooked some Instagrammers who see them as intrusive.

Readers' Choice Poll
Instagram

10

Hottest Startup

WhatsApp

If you’re younger than, say, 25, you could be forgiven for asking, “What’s WhatsApp?” It’s only a 350 million-person mobile-messaging network, boasting 10 billion missives sent every single day among connected members. It’s also one of the startups keeping Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg up at night. The two go head-to-head, with Facebook developing its own Messenger app. Meanwhile, WhatsApp has other startup rivals—including disappearing-photo app Snapchat—lurking around the corner. So WhatsApp developed its own feature to share fast-expiring images. In the next great fight for teenagers’ time, WhatsApp is where it’s at.

Readers' Choice Poll
Snapchat

11

Hottest Video Game

Grand Theft Auto

There’s been much debate over which game is the most fun, the coolest, the most creative. But there’s been little argument about which is the most successful. GTA V made $1 billion in just three days—an unheard of sum in film, TV or any other medium. There’s no doubt it’s cool, with its depiction of an L.A.-like metropolis and a ton of awesome tasks. It also goes places no game has ever gone before—you can feed and play with your dog on the iFruit (the series’ in-game Apple parody, and also the name of its iPhone and iPad apps). The satire is smart, the money is green, and the play is as addictive as the drugs the characters fight over.

Readers' Choice Poll
Grand Theft Auto

12

Hottest Time Suck and Hottest Mobile Game

Candy Crush

Photo: Michael Clinard



Talk about crushing it. Everybody and his or her mom seems addicted to Candy Crush Saga, the dream-invading game that logged half a billion downloads in less than a year (it took Angry Birds three years to get there). Every day, 100 million people play—rather, obsess over—this brainteaser from developer King. And while with oldies such as Pac-Man you had to find an arcade to get your fix, Candy Crush fans are playing every free moment on their phones and tablets. Still, the time-wasting business is a tough one (ask Zynga). Can King—making a reported $850,000 a day on the game—keep it up as its IPO approaches?

Readers' Choice Poll - Hottest Time Suck 
Candy Crush

Readers' Choice Poll - Hottest Mobile Game
BuzzFeed

13

Hottest Video Platform

Netflix

Every once in a while, a player comes along that totally upends an entire industry. Right now, that company is Netflix, and the business it has turned on its head isn’t the movies— it’s television. A year’s worth of original content has demonstrated the streaming video service’s commitment not just to creating wildly popular, critically acclaimed programming—but to paying as much as necessary for it. (Netflix laid out a stunning $100 million for the first 13-episode season of House of Cards.) Netflix has, in fact, ended up in bidding wars with Showtime and HBO—and shelling out all that dough has already paid off. Netflix has surpassed HBO in paid subscribers, as it seals deals abroad for distribution through cable packages.

Readers' Choice Poll
Netflix

14

Hottest Web Series

Orange Is the New Black

Photo: Michael Clinard



Weeds creator Jenji Kohan opted for an even riskier lead character than Showtime’s pot-dealing housewife: Piper Chapman (played to great acclaim by Taylor Schilling), the fictionalized version of ex-con Piper Kerman, who, a decade ago, was sent to prison for her role in a drug-smuggling and money-laundering scheme in which she was involved. While incarcerated, Chapman meets women who have fallen through the horrifyingly wide cracks in the criminal justice system, and the people who exploit them. The series is such a trenchant indictment of the U.S. prison system that Kernan was invited to write an op-ed on the topic for The New York Times. But even though centered around a very serious topic, OITNB manages to be very funny, too.

Readers' Choice Poll
Ghost Ghirls (Yahoo)

15

Hottest News App

New York Post

The daily founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801 has managed to create a tablet app that captures the essence of the print product, beloved by New Yorkers for its Page Six column and other proudly tabloid content. The app makes it breathtakingly easy to navigate sections, pages and stories, giving readers intuitive paths to desired content. And most importantly, the design is decidedly digital—not, as with other dailies, a mere PDF version of the paper. On the contrary, with video and social-minded content galore, it is an interactive workhorse.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Huffington Post

16

The 2013 Hot List Winners

View the rest of the 2013 Hot List winners here: Print | TV