Hot List: Digital

Facebook and Spotify are among the year's hottest digital media companies

Social Media Site
Facebook

Call it a bully, a new paradigm, a blessing, a curse—whatever you call Facebook, its presence and power is undeniable. Today the social network has more than 800 million members and is expected to more than double ad revenue to $3.8 billion by the end of this year. By the end of 2012, Facebook, which has a Klout score of 80 and won the Readers’ Choice poll for top social site, could control nearly 20 percent of all U.S. display ad revenue. In the past year, its monthly unique visitors climbed 10 percent to 166 million. By continuing to add music and lifestyle apps, Facebook hopes to differentiate itself even further with engagement.

Search Site
Google

In Internet time, 13-year-old Google is graying at the temples, but it still leads the pack in search with Adweek readers and users overall. Despite competition from Microsoft’s Bing and smaller startups, Google boasts a 65.6 percent market share. An endless stream of search queries helped Google earn record revenue—nearly $10 billion in Q3, up 33 percent from the previous year’s third quarter.

Gaming Company
Zynga

Thanks to hits like FarmVille and CityVille, Zynga is still the king of the social gaming world. Case in point: When the company filed for a $1 billion IPO in July, it reported revenue of $235 million for the first three months of the year. Its model of free games, with money coming from virtual good sales and advertising, seems to be paying off, and our readers agree. It topped our Adweek poll.

Mobile
Apple

Apple addicts got their fix this fall with the debut of the highly anticipated iPhone 4S and sidekick Siri, its cheeky, voice-controlled personal assistant. The hype, along with real improvements to Apple’s iOS—including iCloud, an 8MP camera, and faster performance—led to a record-breaking 4 million iPhones sold worldwide over the first weekend. Google’s Android may power more smartphones globally, but to Adweek readers and millions of iOS users, the iPhone shines brightest.


App
Angry Birds

It’s an Angry Birds world, and we just live in it. The game has been downloaded more than 500 million times in the past two years and has garnered a Klout score of 76. But the cultural footprint goes much further. Game maker Rovio is becoming a licensing powerhouse, with T-shirts, toys, Halloween costumes, and more. It’s also eyeing the entertainment industry, and there’s even a Hollywood movie in the works.

Startup
Spotify

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has called Spotify (where he’s an investor) the first online music service that can compete with piracy. Founded in Sweden, the U.K.-based company launched in the U.S. in July with sponsors Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, and Motorola, and now boasts 2.5 million paying U.S. and European subscribers (and 10 million total registered users). Last week, Spotify morphed into a bona fide platform, announcing plans to roll out apps. Partners include Rolling Stone and Billboard, and there are apps for ticket listings and lyrics. Apple and Facebook, take note.

Lifestyle Website
Tumblr

If Facebook is about connecting people, Tumblr is about tapping into their creativity. In the past year, the super-easy, hyper-customizable, and highly conversational micro-blogging platform has more than tripled traffic, logging more than 15 million unique visitors in October. The fast-growing site has a Klout score of 73 and is reportedly valued at about $800 million.

Sports Website
ESPN

In the highly competitive field of sports sites, ESPN is the top draft pick with Adweek readers. Not only is it fully loaded with a lineup that caters to both casual and diehard fans, but it also enjoys content that flows easily between the site and the cable box. The stats? Nearly 49 million unique monthly visitors and a Klout score of 86.


News Website
Huffington Post

HuffPo may not be popular among its peers—The New York Times recently filed a cease-and-desist for the website’s Parentlode blog, written by the Times former Motherlode writer—but the news aggregator continues to be a hit with users, growing since its acquisition in February by AOL by 40 percent to 35 million monthly uniques. With more to read (HuffPo’s sections have increased to 21), it’s no wonder the blog won Adweek’s Readers’ Choice poll. There’s a vertical for everyone.

Entertainment News Website
TMZ

As a news outlet, TMZ has made a name for itself the old-fashioned way: with (often unsavory) scoops. Since its founding six years ago, TMZ has transformed itself into the Politico of entertainment news, aggregating an enviable audience in the process. Today, TMZ gets an average of 17.5 million unique visitors per month and even boasts a spinoff syndicated series, TMZ on TV.

Streaming media
Spotify

Of all the streaming music services that have sprung up in recent years, perhaps none has posed so serious a threat to iTunes’ hegemony as Spotify. Unlike iTunes, Spotify is a social experience. Users can listen to their Facebook friends’ playlists and can then announce to the world what they’re listening to at any given moment. It also has two tiers of service: a paid subscription plan that is ad-free (sort of a Netflix for music) and an unpaid, ad-supported service. With its bold transition last week to a platform with integrated apps, Spotify’s “new direction” seems to be a great leap forward.  


Click the categories below to view more winners: