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Forbes ‘Richest’ List: No More Social Media Moguls?

This week Forbes released the 30th anniversary edition of its “Forbes 400: The Richest People in America” issue, and the list’s top ten is only surprising for being so boring. Bill Gates? Check? Warren Buffett, The Koch brothers, and the Waltons? Check, check, check.

The only change to the top ten is the addition of Michael Bloomberg, who somehow made lots of money last year while giving New Yorkers an extended “this is why you’re fat” lecture. We are not shocked.

In fact, there’s only one real “richest people” development that interests us: a big decline in the rankings for social media executives. The biggest individual drop, of course, belongs to Mark Zuckerberg, who has probably been grinding the hell out of his teeth every night for the past six months despite his public displays of confidence.

But does this development signal the beginning of the end of the “social media mogul?”

Other former new-media kings who took big hits this year include Eric Lefkofsky of Groupon and Zynga’s Marc Pincus–no surprises there. But the ratings may damage a very popular fantasy that casts Silicon Valley’s tech startup execs as brilliant heroes just itching to make billions overnight via “innovative” social media products. Forbes still lists Instagram’s Kevin Systrom among its “ones to watch”, but you’ll have to forgive us for being extremely skeptical.

This report raises some big questions:

Was the social media stock boom just another (poorly disguised) bubble?

Has Facebook’s poor performance, combined with the other social media failures of the past six months, made investors more wary of betting the farm on brands that just might turn out the next “Angry Birds” or the latest photo editing app?

Will future social media moguls find it harder to break through?

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