Here Are This Year’s Digital Hot List Winners


Digital Executive of the Year

Kevin Systrom
Co-Founder and CEO, Instagram

This 30-year-old has famously labored over the creative of every Instagram ad from brands like Ben & Jerry’s and State Farm to ensure the promos fit his platform’s ethos. And it's this kind of attention-to-detail leadership that has made his mobile app worthy of a $1 billion purchase by Facebook two years ago and deserving of the devotion of 200 million fanatical users, from Beyoncé to George W. Bush.


Digital Editor of the Year

Harvey Levin
Creator/Managing Editor, TMZ

Broadcaster. Journalist. Lawyer. Mogul. After making TMZ into one of the most influential Hollywood news orgs, 64-year-old Levin lately has broken big sports stories, notably abuse allegations surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Then there were former L.A. Clippers owner Don Sterling’s tirades. Whatever topic your co-workers are talking about around the watercooler, they probably read it first on TMZ.


Hottest Digital Brand

Our Choice: Netflix

Five words justify this winner: Orange is the New Black. No, wait, maybe just three: House of Cards. Take your pick. When it comes to originals, not to mention the countless movies and second-run TV shows the video platform offers, it’s easy to see why Netflix, with 36 million subscribers, has become a digital game changer. While shares slumped due to slower pickup of new subs—and a challenge looms as HBO preps a new video service—look to Netflix’s continued global expansion and partnerships with the likes of Warner Bros. to keep it a powerhouse.

Readers' Choice: YouTube

Finalist vote tally:
1. YouTube: 74.9%
2. BuzzFeed: 11.2%
3. Uber: 4.9%


Hottest Startup

Our Choice: Snapchat

Worth an estimated $10 billion and boasting more than 100 million active users, Snapchat is on the lips of practically every marketer. after much speculation, the social app finally got into the ad game, with promos for Samsung, Universal Pictures and Macy’s that mirror its short-lived videos and snapshots tech-obsessed millennials send each other. Marketers can expect to see a lot more of those native ads as brands move their social media strategies beyond Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Readers' Choice: Snapchat

Finalist vote tally:
1. Snapchat: 54.7%
2. Imgur: 32.5%
3. Soundbutt: 11.0%


Hottest Digital Obsession

Our Choice: Reddit

Hot off a $50 million investment round, Reddit is where we divulge our deepest secrets and kill several hours every week. Its famed Ask Me Anything threads have drawn participants ranging from Snoop Dogg to President Obama to George Clooney. With monthly traffic of about 6.2 billion pageviews, the site lives up to its claim as the “front page of the Internet.”

Readers' Choice: YouTube

Finalist vote tally:
1. YouTube: 55.9%
2. Netflix: 32.0%
3. BuzzFeed: 6.0%


Hottest Digital Publication

Our Choice: TMZ

Whether it's the passing of Joan Rivers, Ray Rice's domestic-abuse footage or last week's exclusive about Bill Cosby getting sued by one of his many sexual assault accusers, the Hollywood gossip site is becoming a credible news organization by outhustling the competition. According to comScore, traffic is up 74 percent in just the past three months, with 116 million visitors.

Readers' Choice: Thrillist

Finalist vote tally:
1. Thrillist: 44.5%
2. Vox: 26.6%
3. BuzzFeed: 23.1%


Hottest Sports Brand

Our Choice: Deadspin

Four years have passed since the sports blog revealed that NFL star Brett Favre was sexting lewd photos to a reporter—and it hasn’t slowed down. It got buzz for “buying” a Baseball Hall of Fame vote while donating proceeds to a charity in the name of the “seller,” which turned out to be Miami Herald writer Dan Le Batard. Believe the hype: Traffic skyrocketed 84 percent from August through October.

Readers' Choice: SB Nation

Finalist vote tally:
1. SB Nation: 45.7%
2. ESPN: 36.5%
3. FanSided: 11.5%


Hottest Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos

Our Choice: GoPro

What does it mean that GoPro’s branded videos routinely garner hundreds of thousands of views, if not millions? A lot. Revenue this year shot up 87 percent to $986 million, and it now boasts fully half the action-camera market, per IDC.

Readers' Choice: Apple iPhone

Finalist vote tally:
1. Apple iPhone: 67.0%
2. GoPro: 18.3%
3. Tesla: 6.0%


Hottest Video Platform

Our Choice: Twitch

Back in the day, we used to head to the arcade to watch experts get the high score on Galaga. Thanks to Twitch, that trip isn’t necessary. The video-streaming network and community is where 55 million monthly users cheer on their favorite players or get tips on how to reach a hard level. The big win: Amazon paid $970 million for the 3-year-old company in August.

Readers' Choice: YouTube

Finalist vote tally:
1. YouTube: 71.1%
2. Netflix: 23.0%
3. 3.5%


Hottest Video Star

Our Choice: TheFineBros

Episodes from Benny and Rafi Fine’s series React are pretty much guaranteed to go viral. TheFineBros’ Kids React to Walkman video has garnered nearly 11 million views across eight months. Brands are cashing in: Friskies and AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire tapped the duo to create content.

Readers' Choice: Smosh

Finalist vote tally:
1. Smosh: 44.4%
2. Bart Baker: 42.9%
3. The Fine Bros.: 9.5%


Hottest Vine Star

Our Choice: Jerome Jarre

Jarre, 24, found a way to turn quirky, six-second videos into a business, with brands clamoring to tap his massive popularity. A native of France, Jarre (an Adweek cover boy this year) has become famous by talking to squirrels and cozying up to strangers. He made the leap to Snapchat and YouTube, and MTV selected him to send Vine videos from its live awards show.

Readers' Choice: Tyler Oakley

Finalist vote tally:
1. Tyler Oakley: 48.3%
2. Nash Grier: 41.7%
3. Brittany Furlan: 8.5%


Hottest Web Series – Subscription

Our Choice: Orange Is the New Black

A female prison makes for an oddball setting, but Orange Is the New Black proved it is made of much deeper stuff—especially in Season 2, boasting an 89 percent rating on Metacritic. Netflix’s much-lauded original series, created by Jenji Kohan, shed light on social issues faced by women, making it relatable and bingeworthy.

Readers' Choice: East Los High

Finalist vote tally:
1. East Los High: 50.4%
2. Orange is the New Black: 25.5%
3. House of Cards: 6.7%


Hottest Web Series – Free

Our Choice: Between Two Ferns

This year’s one-on-one with President Obama gave Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns and host Zach Galifianakis legitimacy and an even wider audience, plus an Emmy win. The sit-down has been watched 27 million times. And a hit vid with Brad Pitt proved the series is just warming up.

Readers' Choice: Honest Trailers

Finalist vote tally:
1. Honest Trailers: 55.7%
2. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: 22.6%
3. Between Two Ferns: 15.3%


Hottest Video Network/Studio

Our Choice: Collective Digital Studio

CDS is one of emerging media’s top dogs, inking deals with brands like Purina (for its Petcentric YouTube channel). The premium video company has helped cultivate hits like Epic Meal Time for FYI Network and won rights to adapt hit series Maximum Ride.

Readers' Choice: Collective Digital Studio

Finalist vote tally:
1. Collective Digital Studio: 44.1%
2. Awesomeness TV: 38.6%
3. Fullscreen: 12.1%


Hottest Celebrity on Social Media

Our Choice: George Takei

With his sharp take on pop culture, Takei has turned his social media outposts into a huge hit with the cool kids (the 77-year-old has 1.4 million Twitter followers). He has ingeniously woven in support for important causes, too, including LGBT rights. And with AARP Web series Takei’s Take, he’s proved his appeal spans all ages, audiences and platforms.

Readers' Choice: Honest Trailers

Finalist vote tally:
1. Beyoncé: 74.4%
2. George Takei: 10.5%
3. Michael Ian Black: 4.7%


Hottest In Native Advertising

Our Choice: BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed’s Dear Kitten videos for Purina have become a case study for successful branded videos. The first two installments were viewed 7.4 and 18.5 million times. Most importantly, they made viewers 57 percent more likely to consider buying. It’s no surprise brands like Clean & Clear and General Electric want to tap in.

Readers' Choice: Vox

Finalist vote tally:
1. Vox: 42.4%
2. The New York Times: 27.8%
3. BuzzFeed: 27.3%


Hottest Digital Marketer

Our Choice: Taco Bell

When it comes to millennial-geared marketers, Taco Bell is an undisputed leader in working social platforms. This year, the brand bought its first Instagram ads to launch breakfast, resulting in a 29 percent increase in ad recall. To build buzz around its new mobile ordering app, it shut down its social media accounts across several days to drive downloads, and 75 percent of all stores accepted a mobile payment within 24 hours. Yum.

Readers' Choice: Amazon

Finalist vote tally:
1. Amazon: 49.1%
2. MTV: 30.2%
3. Burger King: 10.1%


Hottest Social Platform

Our Choice: Instagram

Facebook bought this photo-sharing app in 2012 to bring a whole new generation of social media devotees into its orbit. Fast-forward, and it is seen as young and dynamic in areas where Facebook is feeling a little old. (Moms don’t often embarrass their teenagers on Instagram.) This year, it opened to ads and has evolved video capabilities. While it faces competition from Snapchat and Vine, it more than handles its own.

Readers' Choice: Twitter

Finalist vote tally:
1. Twitter: 43.0%
2. Instagram: 42.0%
3. Facebook: 12.6%


Hottest Messaging App

Our Choice: Kik

If you are older than 25, chances are you haven’t heard of Kik. But the startup messaging app is on fire, having just raised $38 million and reaching 185 million users, a base that includes 40 percent of those 13-24. In a Kik video ad, Funny or Die got a 10 percent click rate and 1 million views over a few days. That sounds like something marketers should get a kick out of.

Readers' Choice: Twitter

Finalist vote tally:
1. Twitter: 47.6%
2. WhatsApp: 25.7%
3. Facebook Messenger: 23.6%


Hottest Shopping Site

Our Choice: Alibaba

After taking Alibaba public this year with a $25 billion IPO, founder Jack Ma has his sights set on international expansion in 2015. Last month, Ma announced the company was developing an international version of its Taobao Marketplace e-commerce portal, which lets merchants sell products to consumers. Next up: With its whopping 307 million active users, Alibaba is poised to put a dent in U.S. online commerce in the coming year.

Readers' Choice: Amazon

Finalist vote tally:
1. Amazon: 65.0%
2. eBay: 19.6%
3. Etsy: 13.2%


Hottest Music App

Our Choice: Pandora

There are many options for listening to music on the go, but Pandora’s discovery-driven features have attracted 76 million monthly users. It’s also caught the attention of brands like Lexus with sponsored concert series and products like Sponsored Listening, which lets users skip ads.

Readers' Choice: iHeartRadio

Finalist vote tally:
1. iHeartRadio: 44.0%
2. Spotify: 31.9%
3. Pandora: 21.3%


Hottest Anonymous Social App

Our Choice: Secret

Secrets can be fun, especially if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of fans of this app, which got nearly $35 million in funding this year. The platform lets users spill the beans with strangers without revealing who they are. Mum’s the word on its ad plans, but it’ll be fascinating to watch which brands link up with the app.

Readers' Choice: iHeartRadio

Finalist vote tally:
1. Whisper: 57.2%
2. YikYak: 24.0%
3. Secret: 16.8%


Hottest Digital Utility

Our Choice: Uber

The ride-hailing app has recently faced a steady stream of bad news, even as it aggressively expands its footprint and transforms the way we catch a ride. And it’s building a digital platform for brands, partnering with the likes of Casper to deliver promos as well as mattresses. Despite the negative buzz, it’s hard to argue with a $40 billion valuation and an army of devotees ensconced in those black Escalades.

Readers' Choice: Google Maps

Finalist vote tally:
1. Google Maps: 58.1%
2. Uber: 19.9%
3. The Weather Channel: 18.3%


Hottest Game – Console

Our Choice: Minecraft

By letting them create their own experiences, Minecraft appeals to players who want to explore their creativity through “gameplay”—that is, how people act during games. That has created a wealth of online content and boosted the careers of gaming stars like SkyDoesMinecraft and Syndicate. With a staggering 100 million users, Minecraft’s appeal was so over-the-top that in September, Microsoft bought the company from developer Mojang for $2.5 billion.

Readers' Choice: Mario Kart 8

Finalist vote tally:
1. Mario Kart 8: 35.6%
2. Minecraft: 31.9%
3. Call of Duty franchise: 28.8%


Hottest Game – Mobile

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

It’s her world—we just live in it. This smash game, from developer Glu Mobile, pulls in a reported $700,000—every single day—with Kim Kardashian getting a 45 percent cut. Unbelievably addictive, it lets players become A-list celebrities (if only in their fantasies) while making in-game purchases and snagging free stuff to boot. Advertisers range from Exxon Mobile to the U.S. Army.

Readers' Choice: Flappy Bird

Finalist vote tally:
1. Flappy Bird: 49.9%
2. Candy Crush: 24.5%
3. 2048: 20.5%


Hottest Hook-Up Site


Thanks to Tinder, every tech-savvy single knows what it means to swipe to the right. It also popularized the shirtless selfie and tiger pics. While criticized as shallow and dismissed as a mere hook-up app, there is no denying Tinder has changed the digital dating landscape. And it’s free—for now at least.

Readers' Choice: Tinder

Finalist vote tally:
1. Tinder: 63.0%
2. Christian Mingle: 17.0%
3. OkCupid: 14.9%


Hottest Mobile Design


Foursquare ditched its rep as a check-in app by splitting services for 55 million users into two apps: Foursquare plus upstart Swarm. That led to 54 percent more viewers in August year-over-year, with one-third of users engaging with both apps. Whether it will keep Foursquare top of mind for brands remains a question, but Emirates Airlines and Procter & Gamble are in.

Readers' Choice: Amazon

Finalist vote tally:
1. Amazon: 56.1%
2. BuzzFeed: 29.3%
3. Uber: 10.8%


The 2014 Hot List Winners

View the rest of the 2014 Hot List winners here:
Magazines | Television | Digital | Media Visionary

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