Top 10 media stories of 2010 Part II: Rise of the individual as a media brand
Here's the second half of my list of top media moments in 2010, topped by the year's biggest advance in social media:
5. NBC, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien eviscerate The Tonight Show's legacy
Fans may grouse that Jay Leno pushed Conan O'Brien out of a job he originally agreed to leave. But Leno was scoring top ratings, allowing him to nab a new contract guaranteeing more financial pain for NBC if they fired him than O'Brien. In the process, O'Brien's career was hobbled and NBC removed any remaining prestige left for The Tonight Show brand.
4. The slow death of American Idol
How did Fox respond to losing the biggest star from TV's biggest show when judge Simon Cowell quit? By losing Idol's second-biggest star (a disillusioned Ellen DeGeneres), drafting a 62-year-old rocker to judge a program seriously short on pop stars and lowering the applicants' age limit in a bald-faced bid to snare the next Justin Bieber. With Idol ripoffs on the way from NBC, CBS and Cowell, via his new Fox show The X Factor, TV's biggest hit looks like a wounded caribou waiting for Sarah Palin.
3. The online Information War explodes
First, conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart attacked the NAACP with a false charge of antiwhite racism based on a heavily edited video. Then WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange exposed secret documents outlining everything from undercovered problems in the Afghanistan war to State Department spying on diplomats, all using a decentralized website no government can shut down. We're way past televising the revolution; now it's all happening online.
2. 'I'm not a witch' redefines the political debate
Using a pricey campaign ad to disavow past dabbling in witchcraft, Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware simultaneously summed up the depths of fringy crackpots unearthed by desperate midterm voters and the hazards of running for office after a career as a button-pushing conservative pundit. Those who rise by the sound bite sometimes are sunk by it.
1. Rise of the individual as a media brand
Here's what Facebook did for the world: It turned every person with an Internet connection into a media outlet. Small wonder TV is bursting with everyday people who think their lives are ready for prime time; Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have made it a reality, cultivating a generation that can leverage the world's attention with a single captivating video, blog post or tweet. Big media's challenge? Just keeping up.