Feature

Campaign Media Awards 2007: Media Achiever of the Year - Mark Zuckerberg

This time last year, probably a handful of Campaign's readers had ever been on a social networking website known as Facebook, which was primarily inhabited by college students and lecturers.

Skip forward to now and any Campaign reader who hasn't at least been invited to Facebook by one of their friends or colleagues would be as rare as a snowflake in the Sahara.

Facebook members who spend hours perusing the site don't need the statistics to back up claims to the crown of Campaign's 2007 Media Achiever of the Year, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But just in case it is questioned, the site has seen regular users double from 20 million in April this year to 49 million at the time of writing; and Microsoft has just paid $240 million for a 1.6 per cent stake in the company, valuing it at $15 billion as a whole.

Importantly for advertisers, this month also saw the launch of Facebook Ads, a system that allows advertisers to set up their own profile pages and place ads into news feeds. Marketers created more than 100,000 branded pages within the first 24 hours and Facebook said it was already working on a second-generation advertising platform.

Zuckerberg started the site in February 2004 from the dorm room at Harvard, with co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The simplicity of the site caught the imagination of users, who totalled more than one million by the end of 2004. However, it was not until last year, when membership was opened up to those without a university e-mail address, that Facebook began to take over the world. Membership grew exponentially, numbering 12 million by December 2006.

As well as coming up with the idea, Zuckerberg claims responsibility for the direction that Facebook takes as a company, and heads product strategy. He also leads the design of Facebook's service and development of its core technology and infrastructure.

Like other internet phenomena, the naysayers asked: "But how will it make money?" However, this time they seemed to be drowned out by advertisers asking: "How can we use this site?"

Facebook's 49 million-plus users may be fans, but the founders of rival social networking site ConnectU are not - they claim Zuckerberg stole their ideas while at Harvard, and they asked for Facebook to be shut down. Facebook users responded, naturally, by forming a group opposing the move; Zuckerberg turned to his lawyers, and the site remains open.

Then there was the nasty shock some UK advertisers had this year upon discovering that their ads were being served up in some unsavoury places on the site, including on one for a group supporting the British National Party. First Direct, Vodafone, Virgin Media, the AA, Halifax and the Prudential withdrew ads at the time.

Furthermore, Zuckerberg has faced personal criticism over the introduction of a "news feed", whereby Facebook users are offered up stories about what their friends on the website are up to. Critics said that it is an invasion of privacy, but he defended himself in a letter posted on Facebook, and the feature remains.

However, it seems the founders have learned a lesson and are treading more carefully around - the ability for search engines to turn up Facebook profiles, available to be viewed by people not logged into Facebook.

All that success, combined with the fact that he was born in 1984, may make Zuckerberg an unpopular choice. But those in the media industry who have achieved slightly less can always comfort themselves with the fact that he is a Harvard dropout and has been known to conduct interviews with the press dressed in sandals and a brown zip-up top.

CV
2007: Sells stake in the company to Microsoft, valuing Facebook at
$15 billion
2006: Facebook expands so that anyone can register
2005: Raises $12.7 million in venture capital from Accel Partners
2004: Launches Facebook while a student at Harvard
1984: Born Westchester County, New York

PREVIOUS WINNERS
2006: David Pattison
2005: Andy Duncan
2004: Simon Kelner
2003: Tony Ball
2002: David Yelland
2001: Michael Jackson
2000: Caroline Marland
1999: Marjorie Scardino
1998: David Elstein

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