Last week, Mediaite asked you who was the top online editor of 2009. As we’d mentioned at the time, some sites didn’t quite fit into the bloggy rubric. Which is why in this round, we’re recognizing sites which are too vast and ambitious in scope to describe in terms of the work of just one editor.
You know the drill, loyal, smart, and attractive readers: below is a list of our nominees for the top site of 2009, including The Business Insider, Ars Technica, Politico, and Talking Points Memo. Vote for your favorite, or leave any deserving candidates you think we left out in the comments:
Ars Technica: In the tech web, Ars Technica is a bit of an oddity. A Web-only publication acquired by Condé Nast in 2008, it’s neither an online distribution arm for a flesh-and-blood magazine, like Wired‘s or PC Mag‘s websites, nor is it quite fair to call it a blog, like the also-excellent Engadget and Gizmodo. But whatever taxonomy one wants to lump Ars into, it excels. It’s not just that the staff knows their gadgets, though they do: Ars is also the rare tech publication that can authoritatively cover the law and policy affecting technology. And serious MacHeads know that when John Siracusa has something to say about Apple, they’d better listen.
The Business Insider: Even in a web culture of numbers, numbers, numbers, The Business Insider stands out for its freakish speed and volume of posts. According to Google Reader, it clocks 522 posts a week: compare that to Gawker’s not at all shabby 246/week or ABC News’ 480/week. Of course, TBI’s staff size is a tiny fraction of the likes of ABC’s, but with Dan Frommer on the tech beat, Nick Carlson on the media and advertising beat, and John Carney and Joe Weisenthal on business and finance, with occasional backup from EIC Henry Blodget, it’s a question worth asking: who needs squads of reporters, anyway?
The Daily Beast: It’s taking more money than most web ventures to get off the ground: AdAge‘s Simon Dumenco passed on reports that it would spend $18 million in its first three years. But in the year-and-change since its launch, Tina Brown‘s Daily Beast has become the web’s closest thing to a high-end glossy, drawing star-studded columnists (Meghan McCain, Christopher Buckley), stirring up lively nationwide debate (listing America’s smartest and dumbest cities), and meeting the required meta-enabling quota (slideshows!). The Daily Beast’s most promising innovation may not be on its website at all: Beast Books, its rapid-publishing imprint, could just be the vehicle to translate highbrow web chatter into cash flow.
The Huffington Post: The designation that The Huffington Post got in media write-ups as recently as last year — “a left-wing political blog” — sounds about as out-of-date in 2009 as calling Nintendo a card company. In one short year, the site has ballooned in size, traffic, and scope, sprouting new verticals (Books, Tech, Sports) like dandelions. Old-timers can complain with some justification that in its expansion, HuffPo has traded some of the righteous fire in its belly for sleek, streamlined, traffic-driving content. But the site’s traffic powerhouses — among them founding editor Roy Sekoff, media editor Danny Shea, senior features editor Katherine Thomson, and news slideshow wizard Anya Strzemien — have reshaped the site into a formidable force.
Mediabistro: Mediabistro, every day, is simply a great resource. It may not be the flashiest shop in media, but is it ever servicey — thousands receive its daily Newsfeed email with essential morning media headlines, its various blogs cover a wide range of beats, often as industry leaders (GalleyCat, TVNewser) and they are constantly offering ways for people to grow from, learn about, and break into the biz. I may be biased here, because I got my start at MB — its January 2002 “Boot Camp for Journalists” class was my first contact with New York media (and with Mediaite Senior Editor Glynnis MacNicol!) but I have seen too many other people rise through those ranks not to appreciate what they have to offer there. And here comes our Victor Kiam moment: We also owe them a hat-tip for providing Mediaite with said Senior Editor MacNicol and TV Editor Steve Krakauer. Definitely their greatest contribution to 2009. Thanks guys! – RS
Politico: Some might balk at Politico’s inclusion as a ‘site’ — it does, after all, have a DC-area print edition. But Politico has made its name by adhering to the giddy, caffeinated 24-hour online news cycle. It’s the rare publication with enough feet on the ground to do it, and media-transfixing scoops like this year’s revelation that David Axelrod met with Roger Ailes are proof of the payoff. But it’s not all frenetic shoe-leather reporting: columnist/bloggers like Ben Smith, Mike Allen, and Michael Calderone regularly shape the debates of the day.
The Root: This year, any talk of Slate’s sibling publication The Root must inevitably circle back to its editor: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., also known as the Harvard professor half of the infamous “beer summit” in the White House Rose Garden, alongside Cambridge police officer Sgt. James Crowley. But that’s selling the site short: since its launch at the beginning of 2008, The Root has established a distinctive voice not only about African American culture, but about the great debates of our time. Given the homogeneity and groupthink that occasionally afflict media, The Root’s perspective is a welcome one at the table.
Slate: Slate has become such a constant in the online arena that it’s easy to underestimate its importance. If Microsoft hadn’t taken that gamble way back when in the mid-90s, who’d’ve known that a smart, sprawling, literary site could also be one of the most-read sites on the whole Internet? Slate occasionally takes its drubbings for its aggressively contrarian theses (the rock band Creed is “seriously underrated”): the #slatepitches Twitter hashtag is a good place to find them from time to time. Hope this contrarian stance doesn’t blow your mind: for raising the level of online discourse and keeping the bar high, Slate is still a major player.
Talking Points Memo: The crown jewel of the Bush-era left-leaning political blogs, Talking Points Memo has sent sparkles of hope into the hearts of many old-school journalists by proving that actual reporting will occasionally get its just rewards, even on the Internet. Even in its impressive expansion (TPMDC, TPMMuckraker, TPMCafé), TPM has had the integrity not to grasp at the Balloon Boys of the online news cycle, maintaining a focus on politics, policy, and mostly hard news that has been rewarded by an engaged, affluent, educated readership. This year, TPM’s Josh Marshall made waves by putting out an ad to hire a publisher (the position hasn’t been filled yet): The Awl’s Choire Sicha mused that this could finally ease the struggle between editors and publishers that has gone on for eons.
The Wrap: It’s hard to believe that entertainment and media news site The Wrap only launched this January: in terms of its impact, it feels like it’s been around for much longer. This year, The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman established some serious cred by laying the site’s reputation on the line to call an NBCU-Comcast deal before anyone else. She was treated with derision by Nikki Finke and with skepticism by many outlets (including ours) — but as time has told, she was right. Scooping the entirety of business and entertainment media about a multibillion dollar merger: not bad for year one.
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com