Senator Rockefeller Collides With a Content King

In the waning days of his long Senate career, the 77-year-old is crossing paths with Neetzan Zimmerman, one of the most powerful talents of the digital media era.
Photograph by Getty Images

Neetzan Zimmerman doesn’t seem to smile for pictures, affecting a mean mug instead. Maybe he knows the entire World Wide Web bows before him. Zimmerman is a millennial, and perhaps the generation’s strongest specimen: he’s something like the Internet traffic-whisperer, the darker Drudge (depending on whose color palette you’re using), the e-seer who can somehow smell what content will go viral. In the span of only years, Zimmerman has launched his own website, sold it to the realm of I Can Has Cheezburger?, where lolcats lurk and purr; become the king of Gawker, often generating more traffic than every other blogger there combined; and joined Whisper, the rapidly growing secret-sharing social media app, as editor-in-chief. In a stroke, Zimmerman is both cabinetmaker and he who fills the cabinet with wonders. For his talents, savvy media companies including BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and Fusion have partnered with Whisper: everyone wants the manna that comes tumbling from Zimmerman’s unusual mind. Everyone, that is, but Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV.

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