07/09/2010 02:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

So the Publishing Business Didn't Die, After All

What is there to conclude from the recent ranking of the top 100 publishers by the online trade magazine, MediaPost?

It's a ranking that claims to figure in traffic, plus "prestige, share of voice, content quality, overall design and UX, innovation and, well, importance." In other words, it's as sketchy as any ranking. But it does illustrate the obvious, albeit hard to quantify, fact that the consumer publishing business -- the business of gathering audiences by aggregating information and then selling those audiences to advertisers -- has in a remarkably short period of time been turned on its ear.

While many traditional publishers still figure on the list, with the New York Times at number one, and the Wall Street Journal at number four -- Google and Wikimedia are respectively at two and three -- more than half of the list consists of publishers who didn't exist 10 years ago, half again of which did not exist five years ago. Three-year-old Newser is on the list at 25; 88-year-old Time is on the list at 100.

A curious aspect of the list is that it invites you to think of these 100 fairly diverse sites as part of one business. In other words, in the middle of the random and anarchic information outpouring of the Web, you can start to see a structured, relatively consistent, more and more identifiable and measurable business model and branding strategy for propagating information. Indeed, it is a business quite similar to the old publishing business, except with a remarkable number of new faces.

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