Vanity Fair’s New Establishment: Techies Take Top Billing

Back in the day, the vaunted power brokers celebrated in Vanity Fair’s annual list of “The New Establishment” were media moguls, veteran Hollywood cigar chompers like Harvey Weinstein and David Geffen.

For 2012, however, the 18th annual list has been bum-rushed by an army of digital heavyweights. Executives from Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter fill the top five slots, and of the top 11, only Adele (at number 11) is a traditional entertainment powerhouse.

Here, take a look at Vanity Fair’s top 10:

Also represented in the top 20: Ben Silberman of Pinterest, Elon Musk of SpaceX, the LinkedIn guys, the CEO of Foxconn, venture capitalist Herb Allen III, “the hacker,” and Russian oligarch and Facebook investor Yuri Milner. Plus: the inevitable Lady Gaga, herself something of an online phenomenon.

The transformation of the Vanity Fair list into a technocratic roll call is clear acknowledgment that in our attention-based economy, we now pay attention (and “pay” is the key word) to the screens on our desks, in our hands and in our laps more than we do to the one big screen in the living room that used to steal all our time. Yes, “Mad Men” may still earn an hour of our attention each week, but how much time are we spending with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, just for starters?

When Amazon’s Jeff Bezos launched not one but seven new Kindle devices last week, he said, “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.” That’s a shot at Apple, of course, but it’s also a strong signal that Amazon, like Netflix, Hulu, the TV networks, and even the movie studio execs who used to rule the entertainment roost, are rushing to monetize all the attention we’re paying to our smaller screens.

The social media sites have risen to the top of the VF list face the same challenge. Twitter has yet to create a credible ad sales strategy, and Facebook has stumbled on the start market in great part because it can’t yet turn our eyeballs into ad dollars effectively. Even venerable Netflix is flailing a bit. Number 50 on the list (call it last place if you want) is Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason, another stock market stumbler who has yet to turn the promise of his great idea into real revenues.

It will be fascinating to see who figures it all out first and best. Care to bet on how the VF list will reshuffle itself next year? Who do you think will be the biggest gainer and the bigger loser?

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The New Estabishment 2012  [Vanity Fair]

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