Impeccable curators and promoters of viral content. View as a gallery.
ChrisPoole was just 15 when he launched 4chan in 2003. The website is a controversial image board that's responsible for triggering many of the last decade's most famous Internet memes (think LOLcats and Rage Comics). Anonymous, the hactivist collective, also traces its roots to Poole's wildly unregulated site. In 2011, Poole introduced Canvas, a social sharing site that's the G-rated version of 4chan. He also signed on as an adviser at Lerer Ventures, a seed-stage venture-capital fund.
Combined score: 79.4
Matt Drudge's high-water mark should have been in 1998. The former 7-Eleven night-shift manager blew the lid off a White House scandal by reporting on the existence of a pending Newsweek story about a White House intern's involvement with President Clinton. One day later, his site, The Drudge Report, had found a name: Monica Lewinsky. Fifteen years later, Drudge is still driving headlines and talk-show commentary with his agenda-setting headlines and an eye for the wackiest news. One recent study suggested that his site drives more traffic than Facebook and Twitter... combined.
Combined score: 67.2
Andy Carvin is a pioneer. First hired in 2006 to help the public-radio network embrace social media, Carvin became a "one-man Twitter news bureau." His efforts reached new heights during the Middle East's Arab Spring uprisings. As protests lit up Tunisia and then Egypt in early 2011, Carvin was averaging 400 tweets a day sharing photos, videos, and eyewitness reports of violence in the streets. "I see it as another flavor of journalism," Carvin told The Washington Post of his work. "So I guess I'm another flavor of journalist."
Combined score: 63.2
Ze Frank is the performance artist behind the popular Web series the show with zefrank, which from 2006 to 2007 invited viewers to join his wacky mix of commentary and audience participation. This past February, Frank turned to crowdfunding site Kickstarter in search of money to revive the show. "If Newt can do it, so can I," Frank wrote. "So can we." The campaign, which raised $146,752 in 11 days, caught the attention of power VC Marc Andreessen and viral entrepreneur Jonah Peretti, who kicked in another $200,000, which Ze says he will put toward "a new kind of media company" built upon audience participation.
Combined score: 63.0
Ben Huh was a regular working stiff when he came across I Can Has Cheezburger?, a site featuring pictures of cats accompanied by funny, often deliberately misspelled captions. Huh and investors bought Cheezburger in 2007 for $2 million, and have developed a cute idea into a real business, with more than four dozen Web properties, including FailBlog and KnowYourMeme. The flagship Cheezburger site gets 43 million page views a month and has spawned two New York Times bestsellers. Huh is now focused on his mobile news startup, Circa, which in April raised $750,000 in funding.
Combined score: 61.0
When Sean Parker was a 16-year-old hacker, he was pulled out of a world civilization class at the request of the FBI. At 19, he helped cofound Napster, the music-sharing service that drove Metallica—not to mention the music industry—bananas. At 24, he joined Facebook as the fledgling social network's first president. Along the way, the hard-working, hard-partying billionaire has also founded sites such as Plaxo and Causes, joined the Spotify board, become managing partner at The Founders Fund, and, just this month, rejoined Napster co-creator Shawn Fanning to launch their latest venture, Airtime.
Combined score: 57.4
If it wasn't enough that Jonah Peretti founded BuzzFeed, the wildly popular viral-news aggregator, which boasts nearly 30 million page views a month, he's also a cofounder of The Huffington Post, which last year was sold to AOL for $300 million. Peretti recently bought into fellow HuffPo alum Paul Berry's new venture RebelMouse, billed as an easier way to make social-media posts into a functional website. He's also on the board of and an investor in performance artist Ze Frank's as-yet-untitled new venture, which uses audience participation to produce original Web programs.
Combined score: 56.8
Never one to shy away from controversy, Nick Denton has built Gawker Media from an apartment operation in 2002 to a media conglomerate of his own design that operates eight Web-based news-and-opinion properties. Today, Gawker Media is by far the most popular blog network on the Web, worth an estimated $300 million. Denton's flagship, Gawker.com, took a hit in page views last year when many readers left after a site overhaul, but it still manages to pull in nearly 20 million views per month.
Combined score: 56.2
Andrew Baron is a musician, artist, and Web visionary best known as the creator of daily-news site Rocketboom, as well as the spinoff KnowYourMeme and, most recently, video aggregator Magma. Baron sold KnowYourMeme to the Cheezburger network in a low-seven-figure deal in 2011, allowing Baron a "secure position with my own personal finances." Rocketboom is still Baron's bread and butter, with more than $1 million in yearly sales and plans for more Rocketboom spinoffs, including a New York City travel guide. The site relaunched in April with its newest host, Keghan Hurst, following an established practice of digging through YouTube to find hosts.
Combined score: 55.8
At the tender age of 22, Brian Stelter parlayed his founding of the website TVNewser into his current high-profile position as a New York Times media reporter, which has turned him into something of a gatekeeper for the chattering classes. In May 2011, Stelter was among the first and most influential Twitter users to tweet the news of Osama bin Laden's death, right around the time that he was starring in the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times. Stelter hasn't always been a smooth Web operator: in late 2011, he landed in Gawker when he tweeted private messages to sources.
Combined score: 49.6
Until his death in March, Andrew Breitbart was one of the loudest—and most controversial—voices in the political echo chamber. Enamored by Matt Drudge's approach to the Internet, Breitbart became an early Drudge Report editor (he once described his role as "Matt Drudge's bitch"). He also was influential in the initial launch of The Huffington Post. He founded six websites, including his aggregation site Breitbart.com, a platform from which he was a crucial part of the scandals involving Anthony Weiner's unfortunate Twitter habits, Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod's alleged racism, and apparent wrongdoing at ACORN.
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