New Gatekeepers Twitter, Apple, YouTube Need Transparency in Editorial Picks

There was a time when all you needed was a good record review in Rolling Stone or a stellar book review in the New York Times to get a boost in sales and popularity. But as those old gatekeepers lose their cachet in the digital age, a new set of gatekeepers has sprung up and they don’t have bylines. These are the editors who pick featured artists and apps at the Apple (AAPL) iTunes store, who choose videos to spotlight on YouTube (GOOG), and who highlight Suggested Users on Twitter.

The most recent hubbub over the gatekeeping function started when Twitter began listing Suggested Users a couple months ago for newbies who weren’t following anyone and didn’t get how the service worked. By highlighting popular Twitter feeds from news organizations such as the New York Times and celebrities such as Britney Spears, Twitter hoped to hook new users. The problem? There was no explanation of how anyone made it onto such a list, and all the featured users started racking up huge numbers of followers.

Video host and blogger Veronica Belmont said her growth rate of followers shot up to a few thousand new ones per day–now hitting around 275,000.

“At the time that I was featured, I already had a pretty successful following on the site, at around 50,000 readers,” Belmont told me. “Maybe Twitter thought that if those people enjoyed my Tweets, then new people would as well. I tend to write about things in the technology world, but I intersperse it with funny or cool links I find throughout the day.”

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