Now thought leaders and those who strive for that status have myriad options for voicing their point of view - that is, publishing the opinion-editorial (op-ed). At one time, those options were restricted to establishment media such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Newsweek.
Usually a middleman - the public relations representative - handled the placement. The editors doing the deciding whether to publish or not had enormous power. They still do. That high barrier of entry made the op-ed a high value commodity.
Currently there are more and more media properties with no gate-keepers. LinkedIn, for example, no longer restricts publishing to designated influentials such as GE's Beth Comstock. Also, those wanting to participate in the global conversation about an issue, a product or a service can tweet, blog, post on Facebook and create online videos for YouTube. There is also sponsored content.
Some of that material which has gotten out there without a gate-keeper has gone viral. However, there remains the perception that the op-ed which "earned" its right to a prestitious position in media has more authentic value.
An example of that is the op-ed which is accepted as a guest editorial on weekends at TechCrunch. Another instance is the weekly column by lawyer Mark Herrmann on Abovethelaw.com. He had to "earn" that right. His influence doing this is so much greater than when he was co-authoring a stand-alone blog on medical devices. He retains that right through high traffic, comments, links, and how the points of view shape the conversation about legal trends.
No, not everything in the media has equal influence and power. New media and sponsored content did not create a level playing field. That's exactly why it is difficult to become one's one Public Relations representative. At least if thought leaders want to play in big time.