Time Jumps The Shark :: Then Gets Eaten By It

Time magazine’s Person of the Year (POTY) is out. It is “You.”

Normally, I enjoy reading the POTY issue. I’m a fan of Time, too.

I see some merit in Carlyle’s “Great Men” People philosophy. But, that’s likely becaue I love biographies and they account for the majority of my personal reading choices.

“No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men.” (Heroes and Hero Worship)

I don’t like their choice for POTY, though. With all the political turmoil in the world, with Darfur, the Middle East … all that is going on, this is a poor choice. And, Time is late to the party. They may have arrived as others are ready to go home.

Jumping the shark is all about that moment in Time when something becomes irrelevant. And Time is now being panned by bloggers for copping out with a lame thoughtless selection. And, by choosing social media – everyone creating content online – they assure that all future POTY issues will be less valuable. This TIME POTY is not newsworthy. It is a few years late and their analysis of why it is important misses the mark. It may be more likely that Time has jumped on the end of the first wave of social media adoption. It is quite likely that social media has reached a plateau, for the immediate future.

Part of the reason why so many bloggers have dissed the Time selection is likely due to MSM finally awakening to the diffusion of social media. Early adopters usually don’t like to have their baby recognized as mainstream. Time’s selection sort of accomplishes that distinction. Still, I’m not impressed with the POTY selection because it seems lazy and late. Also, this now diminishes the “great people” theory.

Time should have picked the previously unknown entities that have driven change in social media. The developers of the various open-source platforms would be excellent candidates. Most were college students when they spawned their ideas. And, I’m not talking about the Facebook people of the world or the chubby-buddy club people of the A-list blogebrity set.

No, I’m talking about the people that launched WordPress, LiveJournal and CivicSpace, for instance. Aside from Tim Berners-Lee, who did start it all, these people have been the agents of change: Matthew Mullenweg of WordPress, Brad Fitzpatrick of LiveJournal and Zack Rosen of CivicSpace Labs (blog) are the best examples.

…the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill, and embodied what was important about the year.

Time is, as always, all about numbers. Like circulation numbers, or the number of issues they hope to sell with this issue. POTY is a marketing strategy.

Last year they blew it by naming elite individuals – Gates and Bono – when writing about philanthropy. They missed, and contributed to the obscuring of, the real story. That real story? How about 70% of giving today actually goes to universities and hospitals (healthcare) which leaves the majority of nonprofits fighting over an ever decreasing slice of the pie – that remaining 30%.

CNN’s program about POTY had a bunch of A-list bloggers on it. Um, folks … I think the point is that it is not the A-listers that make social media important. Will CNN and TIME and other MSM ever learn? Are they really this removed from the populace? I’m afraid they are.
Give us a cheer, kidsOne of Time’s photos from their cover story, says it all, too. Come on, give us a cheer, guys! Instead, their choice of POTY, and all the acticles I read, suggests they had no ideas, so their editorial board says, “Let’s pretend we understand and embrace social media.” Think of it as cheerleading after the fact. “We have pretty mylar. People will still like us.”

Time got so many things wrong in their article.

First, they just don’t understand how it all started. Time says:

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. (Source)

Actually, Time, the very first browser was the first tool of the Read/Write Web.

In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the web if one had access rights.

Strangely enough, the web took off very much as a publishing medium, in which people edited offline. Bizarely, they were prepared to edit the funny angle brackets of HTML source, and didn’t demand a what you see is what you get editor. WWW was soon full of lots of interesting stuff, but not a space for communal design, for discource through communal authorship. (Source)

That was the genesis. Yep, the initial tool of social media, actually. And, it was created by … wait for it … Tim Berners-Lee. Open-source languages and platforms drove the rest. People, of course, truly drove the adoption. Their desire to share ideas and opinions, the catalyst.

Time attempted to use social media to garner attention. TIME Managing Editor Rick Stengel recorded this call for responses on YouTube. He calls POTY “one of the most important franchises in journalism.” Again, they reveal the real point of the POTY exercise. It is a franchise. Time desperately wants to hold on and try to survive. So, they purchase 6,965,000 pieces of mylar for the magazine’s cover in order to “reflect” the true People of the Year.

Submit your video with your nominee for TIME’s Person of the Year 2006. Please upload your video to YouTube. Then come back to this page and click on Submit your video with your nominee for TIME’s Person of the Year 2006. Please submit your video responses by uploading videos with your choices to YouTube.

This morning, prior to the announcement of the POTY, the video had “Views: 51,272 | Comments: 80 | (been) Favorited: 11 times” with an average rating of 3 stars. This evening, the video has “Views: 59,537 | Comments: 94 | Favorited: 15 times” and there are 28 video responses. Time, has your discovery of social media come so late that you are already being ignored? For a publication the stature of TIME, that’s not a bad turnout, but not a great turnout, either.

P.S. Blog P.I. tagged it two months in advance. Good job!