Thursday, 12 July 2007

The new boss, same as the old boss?

When Time magazine chose 'you' as its person of the year back in December, it looked like a historical moment.

It looked like an admission that the mainstream media had lost control, and that 'the people' were now in charge. It looked as though blogs and amateur videos were taking the place of newspapers and TV. In Marxist terms, it looked like Time had cheerfully surrendered the means of production to the masses.

Now, though, it looks as if the glorious revolution was just a dream - at least if this week's MediaGuardian 100 list is anything to go by.

Billed as an indicator of a massive shift to web 2.0, the list of the most influential people in UK media is actually very conservative. Sure, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is in first place, but Google isn't dictating any sort of media agenda; it's just taken custody of the world's advertising revenues. The rest of the top 10 - and indeed the rest of the list - is occupied by the usual suspects: two generations of Murdochs, BBC director-general Mark Thompson, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, and so on.

Individual fortunes rise and fall (it's been a bad year for Channel 4 execs following the Big Brother racism furore), but there's no question that, in the Guardian's eyes, media power is still concentrated in the head, rather than in the long tail.

So what of the shift to Web 2.0? YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steven Chen are at number 14, but the assumption seems to be not that user-generated video is the new television, but that YouTube is a new way of distributing mainstream broadcast entertainment. In other words, YouTube's influence lies in its technology, not its content.

This focus on infrastructure, rather than content, permeates the list; the Telegraph is praised for its whizzy new digital newsroom, Guardian digital director Emily Bell for overseeing the paper's online growth, and BBC Technology boss Ashley Highfield gets a cautious mention despite the Corporation's failure to launch its iPlayer technology.

Buried at number 81 is a lone outsider: political blogger Guido Fawkes. He claims to write stories that mainstream journalists are too scared to write in case they lose access to political figures. Last December, it looked like Guido Fawkes was the future of media. Now it looks like bloggers still have a long way to go.

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