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Cover of the December 25, 2006 issue

In 2006, Time magazine chose as its Person of the Year the millions of anonymous contributors of user-generated content to Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, the Linux operating system, and the multitudes of other websites featuring user contribution. The choice was personified simply as you.[1]



While most earlier "person of the year" winners had been historically important individuals, some were symbolic representatives of a class of people, and a few were inanimate: the Computer ("Machine of the Year" in 1982), and "Endangered Earth" ("Planet of the Year" in 1988).[2]

Similar media awards had already recognized the growing significance of online community and user-generated content: "You!" was ranked first in Business 2.0's list of "50 people who matter now" in July 2006;[3] while ABC News had listed bloggers as "People of the Year" for 2004.[4]


In accordance with Time's annual process, different bureaus suggested different candidates.[5] "You", or "the YouTube guys", was floated in November as a possible winner.[6] Readers' opinions were canvassed online.[5] The final decision was made by managing editor Richard Stengel, who chose "You" ahead of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.[5]

The decision was announced in the issue of 13 December 2006.[1] The cover of the magazine featured an iMac computer monitor with a metallic pane appearing as the window of a YouTube-like video player, intended to reflect as online content the visage of whoever picks up the magazine.[1][7] The time remaining indicator in the image indicates a total duration of "20:06", a visual pun connecting this ubiquitous bit of interface design to the year in which it gained ascendancy in Time's view. Stories on the new user-driven media dynamic were provided by NBC editor Brian Williams[8] and Time magazine editors Lev Grossman[1] and Richard Stengel[9]. As Grossman describes, "It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes."


The choice was criticized for being a short-sighted gimmick which ignored other newsmakers of the year. Pundit Paul Kedrosky called it an "incredible cop-out", and speculated that the selection marked "some sort of near-term market top for user-generated content."[10] Kevin Friedl noted the award and cover design recalled the mirror owned by the antagonist of The Big Lebowski, where the viewer's reflection was framed as Time's "Man of the Year".[7]

Besides, the decision raised some criticism as described as ideological and even hypocritical. Some weeks before the announcement, Time decided to ask the users in a poll "Who Should Be Person of the Year?". After several weeks, the poll winner by a wide margin was Hugo Chávez, with 35% of the votes. However, Time decided to ignore those results and did not mention them in the announcement of the Person of the Year. Its critics underline that Time ignores its digital democracy among its readers. Time supporters argue that an online poll is not representative as it has no scientific value. Thus, such a decision should not be based on it.[11] In addition, Peter Sagal said on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! that if "we" truly controlled the media, "we would have picked a much better choice for the Person of the Year issue."


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