When Time named "You" its Person of the Year in last week's magazine, it was like hanging a curveball for bloggers to hit out of the park. Online pundits either cheered the fact that Time was recognizing the rise of user-created media in 2006 (YouTube, MySpace, etc.) -- or made fun of the choice for being gimmicky.
There was one blogger, however, who predicted Time's tactics back in October. William Beutler, a Washington writer who works for the firm New Media Strategies in Arlington, Va., posted a mock Time cover on his BlogPI.net on Oct. 9 that bears a remarkable resemblance to the actual magazine cover. Beutler even had "You" as Person of the Year.
Beutler reasoned that it had been "nearly a decade since Time named someone -- or thing -- from the tech industry [as POTY] -- Jeff Bezos in 1999 -- and more than 20 years since they named the PC its 'Machine of the Year.' . . . It's time for another gimmick!"
His October blog entry was written the day that Google announced its acquisition of YouTube.
"What was the big cultural event of last year? YouTube [and its effect on several political elections]," Beutler explained by phone last week. [Sen. George Allen's use of the term] 'macaca' was a big story. . . . Lonelygirl15 was the hottest show on TV, but it wasn't on TV, it was on YouTube."
Beutler said readers leaving comments on his blog are accusing Time of stealing its idea from Beutler.
"But it's entirely possible they never saw what I wrote. In this new media world, there are so many publishers out there.
"Time chose 'You,' the new media consumer, as Person of the Year. It's ironic that some new media consumer would have come up with the same idea they did."
Gawker.com was one of the first blogs to wax sarcastic over Time's choice of "You."
"That's right -- You, over there, with the face," wrote Gawker.
"See, this way they get to roll in YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia, even Web 2.0 -- anything with a hint of buzz, warranted or not. And since a bunch of Yous use a lot of these tools, we're all meant to be flattered and intrigued by our collective appearance on the cover."
At Buzzmachine.com, Jeff Jarvis wrote that Time's recognition of the "power of the people" was overdue.
"We have always been in charge," Jarvis said. "It's just that the people who thought they had the power now have no choice to but hear us and recognize that we are, and always have been, the boss.
"This year's cover reveals that the notion -- or they would like to think, institution -- of a single person of the year in the single biggest news magazine is such a social anachronism. . . . It is the conceit of mass media that they could pick one person who mattered for the world and that we would listen."
The last word belongs to Kevin Dugan, who blogs at Strategic Public Relations (http://prblog.typepad.com). Dugan quotes the Time article:
"And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."
"Wow," Dugan writes. "They're pouring it on pretty thick. It almost reads like a Bud Light 'Real Men of Genius' spot."