Welcome to Our Digital Hotlist Special Issue

Heat. It’s a strange thing.

You can’t see, taste or hear it. But, boy, can you feel it.

In compiling our list of what platforms and publishers will matter most to marketers in the coming years, we look first for a compelling growth rate. We take into account audience size and revenue or earning potential. But we also have to put great store in an instinctive feel for what is going to be big. This feel is developed over the course of the year as we follow and report on these entities and talk to the people creating and running them, as well as their partners and, yes, their critics.

We intend the ranked list, compiled and written up by our digital editors, Mike Shields and Brian Morrissey, to consist of properties that are making the biggest difference and which are likely to influence the shape of the digital landscape over the next year. By and large we have succeeded.

Back in 2006, there were two entries in the Hotlist whose temperatures have since taken a noticeable dive-video-sharing service Heavy and MySpace. The other eight choices included YouTube, TMZ and Facebook. The latter’s unique monthly audience that year? A paltry 8.5 million, compared with 46 million for MySpace, which clung onto a spot on the 2007 list, but had disappeared by 2008. Facebook, which now has 148 million monthly uniques in the U.S. alone, has occupied the No. 1 or No. 2 slot every year since 2007 and, as you will see on page 14, it’s on top of the list again this year.

YouTube was No. 1 in 2006 and remained on the list through 2008. Twitter appeared on the list last year and is ranked again. Foursquare appears for the first time this year. Given our track record, this bodes well for both these social media services.

In terms of calling which sites, services and devices will shape the digital year to come, so far we’ve been right more often than we’ve been wrong.  In other words, we feel the heat.