Digital Hotlist 2010



Think back five years. If they had made a feature film then about a hot social networking site, it would have been MySpace. Instead, it's the founding story of Facebook that's dramatized -- some say made up -- in David Fincher's The Social Network. The movie's success -- it led the box office with $23 million on its opening weekend and is expected by many to earn Academy Award nominations -- is emblematic of how ubiquitous Facebook has become in popular culture. What's more, the company has quietly become an advertising juggernaut, on track to pull in $1.6 billion in ad revenue this year, per estimates by Cowen and Co. That figure is expected to hit $3 billion in 2011, which would make Facebook one of the Web's biggest ad sellers. And it's done it without plastering its pages with flashy, intrusive ads, a mistake MySpace made that helped usher its own slow-motion decline. If Facebook can navigate the thorny privacy issues that have bedeviled it at times, it has a shot at becoming a digital media force on par with Google.

 • 500 million registered users globally
 • 148 million U.S. visitors, up 60 percent from a year earlier
 • 34 visits per visitor per month

Last year's rank: 1


Yes, tweet was 2009's word of the year, per the American Dialect Society. To some, that was an abomination. The standards editor at The New York Times, for one, sent out a memo admonishing journalists not to sully the paper of record with the colloquialism. That's probably a losing battle. Twitter has defied tech glitches, critics who say it's just a forum for  discussing your lunch and challenges from heavyweights like Facebook and Google to make strides forward. Its audience keeps growing, and it has smartly crafted its ad products around how people use the service, forcing advertisers to create messages that people want to share rather than take the easy way out with homepage takeovers. The trick will be to keep comparatively high ad-interaction rates (Twitter says ad tweets get an average response rate of 5 percent) once the novelty wears off.

 • 160 million registered accounts
 • 370,000 accounts added per day
 • 90 million tweets per day

Last year's rank: 3


In 2007, when Dodgeball founder Dennis Crowley left Google, which had bought his company two years earlier, he broke the news with a photo on Flickr showing him and fellow conspirator Alex Rainert giving the thumbs-down sign and explaining how Google went on to mess up the acquisition. Now, Crowley is back with a souped-up version of Dodgeball that lets people find new things to do and share their location with friends. Foursquare has grown to more than 3 million users, and its declaration that it could crack the lucrative small-retailer market enabled the 30-person company to close a $20 million funding round in June. The path ahead won't be easy. (Facebook, for one, introduced a location-sharing feature in August.) No matter the result, Crowley is intent on continuing his idiosyncratic ways. He took the company to see The Social Network on opening day with four backpacks of beer.

 • 3.8 million registered users globally
 • 200 million total check-ins, 1.5 million per day

Last year's rank: New


At a recent media industry conference, a provocative moderator accused the Huffington Post of trying to add too many features. Stirring the pot, the moderator sarcastically asked the HuffPost exec on the panel: "Have you seen your site?" The exec replied, "Have you seen our traffic?" Touché. In August, reached a record 24.4 million unique users, per comScore. Those users posted more than 3.4 million comments during the month. Clearly, the audience likes the site's experiments with social publishing tools. HuffPost was among the first sites to integrate Facebook Connect and to publish a Twitter-only edition. The site has also embraced the earn-social-currency phenomenon with the launch of HuffPost Badges. New content sections on travel, religion, the arts, education and even divorce have broadened its appeal. Advertising is heating up, too, with revenue expected to double this year, netting out at $30 million.

 • 24 milion unique users in August, per comScore > 3.4 million comments in August
 • Estimated $30 million in revenue, up from $15 million last year

Last year's rank: 6


What do most Americans want for Christmas this year? Rhoda Alexander of market research firm iSuppli calls the iPad the "Tickle Me Elmo" of the 2010 holiday season. Since Apple's tablet computing device arrived last April, most analysts have been forced to increase their sales estimates as the device has flown off shelves at a faster rate than the market-making iPhone. But beyond serving as a consumer electronics marvel, the iPad has helped to reinvigorate the print and Web publishing industries. Plus, the iPad has sparked creative ingenuity from the developer world that will further benefit publishers -- like the much-hyped social reading platform Flipboard. Advertising on the iPad is still hit or miss, but publishers are hopeful they'll be able to command a premium once the install base reaches a significant threshold -- which doesn't appear very far away.

 • Apple sold 2 million iPads in just two months on the market
 • Experts predict 7 to 10 million sold by the end of 2010

Last year's rank: New

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