On the Internet everyone gets 15 minutes of fame, but some people get a whole lot more. A kid with a webcam can become a movie star; an entrepreneur with a smart idea can get on Oprah; a tech blogger can reach a bigger audience than a bestselling novelist.
For the Forbes Web Celeb 25, we track the biggest and brightest stars on the Internet, the people who have turned their passions into new media empires. From stay-at home-moms to geek entrepreneurs, these are the people capturing eyes, influencing opinion and creating the new digital world.
To generate the Web Celebs ranking we first defined a “Web celebrity” as a person famous primarily for creating or appearing in Internet-based content, and who is highly recognizable to a Web-based audience. That definition excludes people who were significantly famous before they hit the Web, like television and movie star turned top Twitter user Ashton Kutcher, and leaves us with a pool of people whose fame grew out of,
and is dependent on, the Internet.
From there we created a candidate list of over 200 Internet personalities. Each candidate was ranked in four areas: Web references as calculated by Google, traffic ranking of their home page as calculated by Alexa, TV/radio mentions and press clips compiled from Factiva, and number of followers on microblogging site Twitter. These four categories were totaled and weighted to produce a final score, then sorted to produce our rankings.
For the third year in a row, controversial gossip blogger Perez Hilton reigns supreme over the world of Web celebrity. Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, writes what he calls “Hollywood’s most hated Web site,” an off-color blend of rumor, opinion and immature humor. The site attracts more than 7.2 million people a month, putting it among the 500 most-visited sites on the Internet, and Hilton has more than 1.77 million followers on Twitter.
Since launching his blog in 2004 (originally as PageSixSixSix. com), Hilton has carefully cultivated his celebrity and today is nearly as well-known offline as on. He’s guest-hosted The View, starred in a series of VH1 specials dubbed What Perez Sez and published a book, Red Carpet Suicide: A Survival Guide on Keeping Up With the Hiltons.
Last year Hilton found himself at the center of a number of tabloid news stories. In April, while judging the Miss USA pageant, he asked contestant Carrie Prejean whether she supported the legalization of same-sex marriage; her controversial answer received national attention and was later cited as a reason she didn’t win the competition. In June Hilton alleged that he was assaulted by a manager of the band Black Eyed Peas; video of the incident revealed Hilton using an anti-gay slur against band member will. i. am. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation asked Hilton to apologize for his comment.
Our No. 2 Web Celeb, Michael Arrington, is one of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley. A corporate attorney and entrepreneur, Arrington is best known as editor of TechCrunch, an influential blog that’s a go-to news source for the tech business cognoscenti. The site obsessively profiles and reviews Internet entrepreneurs, products and services – and a mere mention of a company on its pages can make or break a startup. In 2009 Arrington made headlines when he announced plans to launch the CrunchPad, an e-reader, but the project flamed out in November amid a conflict with his partners.
Hilton and Arrington are both veterans of the Web Celeb 25.