People love rankings, lists — and awards. And publishers love them too because the sell issues and drive page views. Lists and awards inspire jealousy and envy and they’re often controversial accordingly. This is also part of the appeal.
The new Time “100 Most Influential People in the World” is kind of ridiculous. Or perhaps it’s quaint and recalls a time when the publication was at the center of the culture.
This is in no way intended as a slight against the individuals chosen, rather it’s a statement about the self-importance of the project itself. However, if we treat it purely as fashion then we can have fun with it. Today Time Magazine is much more like TimeWarner sibling People Magazine than the serious news publication it was a couple of decades ago.
The list should probably have been called, “The 100 most interesting people according to our editorial staff and some other folks we consulted.”
In the tech category, no Google executives were listed. In terms of “influence,” Larry Page probably should have made the list. Love it or hate it, Google continues to be the most significant internet company on the planet, notwithstanding Facebook’s effort to usurp Google’s position. For that matter Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who unilaterally drove the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, was also snubbed. His deputy, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, did make the list.
Nobody from Twitter made the list. But Apple CEO Tim Cook is there; so is VC Marc Andreessen. Though smart, successful and worthy as individuals, neither of these gentlemen probably should be on the list at this moment. Cook has managed a smooth transition for Apple after the death of Steve Jobs — a significant achievement indeed. But it’s questionable that he’s having tremendous “influence” on the world at large (unless we focus on Foxconn workers or Apple stockholders).
Pete Cashmore, founder of the blog Mashable is on the list, with an appreciation by actress Alyssa Milano. Cashmore should perhaps have made the list a couple of years ago but probably not this year. Nothing at all against Cashmore as an individual, but Mashable’s quality and influence have faded over the past year if anything. Rumor has it that he’s been trying to sell the site for a couple of years.
And why is SNL comedienne Kristen Wiig on the list? Sure, she’s funny and had a successful film (Bridesmaids) but is she truly “influential”? I’m not so sure. That goes for talk show host Chelsea Handler too: funny, successful but not necessarily “influential.”
All of these people are interesting and stand out in one way or another but they’re not all great “influencers” or worthy of the “influential” title. What Time might consider doing next year is soliciting nominations in different categories (e.g., politics, entertainment, industry, etc.) and letting its audience vote.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t matter.