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The 20 most influential people in Los Angeles (kind of)

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As your mom probably told you, life isn’t a popularity contest. Then again, she probably doesn’t use Facebook. And she probably hasn’t heard of NowPublic.

The citizen media site just released a list of what it calls ‘the 20 most influential individuals in Los Angeles.’ But really the list focuses on new-media impact. NowPublic came up with it by counting people’s Facebook friends, Twitter followers, videos on YouTube and search results they garner on Google, among other things (journalists for traditional media organizations weren’t counted).

The list churns up some surprising and strange results. Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis is No. 1. Perez Hilton (a.k.a. Mario Lavandeira) is No. 2. Former Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton is No. 3. Micki Krimmel, an online video video producer and founder of a little company called Sugar Packet, is No. 4.

The list seeks to ‘unearth everyday people who are really quite influential in their market,’ NowPublic Chief Executive Leonard Brody said. These are the people to turn to if you want to get the word out about something in L.A., Brody says.

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Of course, any popularity contest has its dissenters. Sean Bonner scoffed at the list, on which he appears as influencer No. 15. He accuses NowPublic of link baiting, which means ...

... trying desperate things to drive traffic to its website. On the list, for example, NowPublic’s links to each of the 20 individuals point right back to NowPublic’s own website rather than to those of the influencers. Others have also accused NowPublic of link baiting with its earlier New York and Silicon Valley lists.

Brody denied the charges. ‘Did we want traffic? Of course we did. But we took a stab and based our results on quantifiable numbers,’ he said.

One thing to be said for the people on the list: They are popular. Zach Behrens, editor of LAist, comes in at No. 8. His name returns 123,000 hits on Google, and he told me that he has 688 Facebook friends (that earned him the maximum of four points for that category in NowPublic’s calculations). Behrens has 258 followers on his personal Twitter stream, and LAist has 662, earning him another two points.

But Behrens shrugged at his newly public popularity. Other influencers in Behren’s book, such as LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick, weren’t on the list because they don’t Twitter. Plus, he said, the terms are pretty vague.

' ‘Influence’ is a pretty general word,’ he said. ‘Does that mean ‘influence’ in changing Los Angeles to be a better city or ‘influence’ to endorse a band therefore making them the hot must-see?’

-- Alana Semuels


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