Savvy self-promoters who’ve built their own viral brands. Personalities
After about two years as Twitter CEO, Evan Williams in 2010 made way for chief operating officer Dick Costolo to take the top post. Since then, Williams has kept a toe in the Twitterverse while dipping into new ventures. Last June, along with fellow Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, he relaunched Obvious, the tech incubator that spawned Twitter. Williams's newest tech baby, Lift, a mobile application for personal goal attainment led by Tony Stubblebine, is nearly ready for launch.
Combined score: 76.2
It's been a big year and a half for the cofounder of the Reddit rival. After a brief stint as CEO of Digg, Kevin Rose resigned in March 2011 and founded Milk, an Internet incubator. Milk was bought by Google in March 2012 for roughly $15 million, and Rose was named a partner in Google Ventures, the search engine's capital-investment arm. So why did Google want Rose on its team? Check out the prodigious pedigree of his past investments: Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Zynga, to name a few.
Combined score: 73.6
Fresh out of college in 2005, Alexis Ohanian started the social-news site Reddit with business partner Steve Huffman. A year later, Reddit was sold to Condé Nast; today it has 33 million monthly users and 2.6 billion monthly page views, according to Google Ad Planner. Ohanian, now 29, and Huffman have recently moved on to airfare site Hipmunk. Ohanian got attention this year agitating against the Stop Online Piracy Act, which critics say would stifle free speech. The bill was eventually shelved.
Combined score: 70.6
In 1999, when he was just 24, Tony Hsieh sold his Internet advertising company LinkExchange to Microsoft for more than $250 million. A short time later he invested in Zappos and took the position of CEO, eventually building the online shoe retailer's sales to $1 billion annually. With a hands-off management style that focuses on finding employees who will be a strong cultural fit, Hsieh has been the face of the company during the past decade. His 2010 book, Delivering Happiness, was a bestseller: it examines the virtues of a positive work environment.
Combined score: 70.0
In October 2010, Hurley stepped down as CEO of YouTube, the company he cofounded and subsequently sold to Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion. One of a few darlings of the mid-2000s tech boom that radically changed the Internet and media landscapes, Hurley has since followed a common route, using his riches and influence to fund new startups. Notably, Hurley and fellow YouTuber Steve Chen bought Delicious in mid-2011 through their umbrella company AVOS Systems. Less than two years old, AVOS Systems last month gained financial backing from New Enterprise Associates and Google Ventures.
Combined score: 69.6
Once one of America's most famous "lifecasters" (those fearless souls who chronicle their entire lives through Web videos), Justine Ezarik is a true Internet celebrity, drawing legions of new followers each year through her website, iJustine, as well as via her YouTube videos and Twitter feed. The daughter of a Pittsburgh coal miner, Ezarik has gone from viral hero to personal brand, parlaying her online success into mainstream success, guesting on television shows, serving as a panelist at numerous tech conferences and, most recently, was signed to develop an untitled project for the CW's Digital Studio.
Combined score: 63.0
Remember those "seven-minute abs" videos from the 1990s? Tim Ferriss took the concept to a new level with his bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek, followed by The 4-Hour Body and the forthcoming The 4-Hour Chef. Ferriss, named the Greatest Self-Promoter of All Time by Wired.com, has clearly hit on something big (and very profitable) as the leader of the new, Web-savvy generation of "lifestyle-design" (a.k.a., self-help) gurus. Ferriss also holds the world record for most tango spins in a minute and he claims to speak five languages.
Combined score: 57.2
Through a combination of crude if infectious humor and smart viral marketing, comedian Daniel Tosh finds himself at the helm of Comedy Central's highest-rated show, Tosh.0, with an average of 3.7 million viewers per episode. His personal Twitter account has nearly 5.9 million followers, making him the 54th-most-followed tweeter on earth. His 2011 comedy special, Happy Thoughts, pulled in 3.2 million viewers. Tosh seems like he's on top of his game, but fans should take heed: Tosh has promised to end his career next year, on his 38th birthday, either by retirement or suicide.
Combined score: 55.0
Dr. Oz is the second doctor of Oprah Winfrey's most-favored guests to parlay that fame into an established television show (the other is Dr. Phil). Oz has had a few brushes with controversy, but it's his ability to maintain relative legitimacy that has allowed his continued success. In 2010 and 2011, Oz won an Emmy for outstanding daytime talk-show host. His prowess for self-promotion has also led to six New York Times bestsellers and a 2009 National Magazine Award.
Combined score: 53.0
Last spring Lady Gaga closed out her 18-month Monster Ball tour, which grossed more than $200 million, and released Born This Way, which topped more than 1 million in sales its first week. Her friend Elton John recently told the press he was concerned that Gaga's frenetic touring schedule was taking a toll on her health (and she did recently suffer an on-stage injury), but the Mother Monster's social-media domain has never been stronger. In late May she became the first person to amass more than 25 million Twitter followers.
Combined score: 99.0
He calls himself "the Internet's most notorious gossip columnist," but by manufacturing his own fame with relentless self-promotion and an unvarnished portrayal of the country's stars, Perez Hilton changed the nature of fame and celebrity journalism online. He launched what is now PerezHilton.com in 2004, creating an online "burn book" of sorts that mixes ruthless criticisms of stars with pictures of him canoodling with others. The site, which drew controversy for initially covering Michael Jackson's heart attack as a publicity stunt and has a habit of outing stars who have not publicly announced their sexual orientation, attracts around 2 million visitors a month.
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