The Webby Awards have been dubbed “the Oscars of the Internet”. The Web is a sea of information and entertainment. The overwhelming volume of content means we can all find pretty much anything, if we trawl for long enough. The Webbies aim to award those who stand out in this sea. It is the award ceremonies, red carpets included, for those who have flourished in the virtual world.
This year was the 13th year of the awards, and with nearly 70 awards up for grabs they have given prestige to a wealth of different prize categories. They reflect the varied appeal of the internet – from news content, to music content, to blogging…to visual design and typography, the Webbies have it all covered. No one has to be told how important the web has become, so isn’t it good to celebrate its achievements?
This year’s winners were announced on May 5th, though the star studded ceremony is not held until June 8th. The awards feel a little US-centric, but it seems the Webbies really do span the globe. This year the Webby Awards boast over 10, 000 entries, received from over 60 countries worldwide.
Almost as broad as its entry lists is its judging panel, comprising of a 650 person “judging academy”. The academy is the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and the boasts members as far ranging as David Bowie to Matt Groening. But, even broader than that are the Webbies “People’s Voice Awards”, where the judging panel is 500,000 members of the public.
You can see from the Webby Winners run down, the enormous variety of ways the internet is being used and the different ways people are wrestling with sharing their content online, whilst keeping control of what they have created.
Amongst the winners this year was Seth MacFarlane. Best known as the creator of “Family Guy”, which leaves me crying with laughter, but this award – “Film and Video Person of the Year” – is for his web content called the “Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy”. Brief sketches bring together a clever combination of comedy and advertising.
The Best Actress Award won’t be greeted by a tearful, Oscar Style, acceptance speech. Her music video “I’m F**king Matt Damon” was an instant hit. Sarah Silverman was also a winner this year for her political video “The Great Schlep”, urging Jewish kids to persuade their grandparents, in Florida to vote for Barack Obama. I must admit – I felt there were both funnier and more powerful political videos online, this might be one occasion where the comedy just doesn’t travel the Atlantic all that well.
However, Lisa Kudrow’s win for “Outstanding Comedic Performance” certainly did translate. She portrays a therapist who uses 3 minute webcam sessions to treat her patients. It is dry and pithy and is comedy magic. Far from being the now well worn monologue style, it is a conversation style comedy that leaves you squirming. This is a comedy giant designed to be digested online in bite sized nuggets.
But it is not just red carpet entertainment that the Webby Awards are celebrating. The internet has changed the way we digest information and entertainment. Many sectors are still struggling with how to make this work for them, not against them. The now clichéd concept of “harnessing the power of the internet” is one that most businesses are still negotiating and it is perhaps for this reason that the Webbies are the most important. They are an insight into those who have most successfully traversed the jungle of the internet and come out swinging like Tarzan. It is for this reason that we should all keep an eye on them, and an eye on the most creative and entrepreneurial entrants and winners of the Webbies.
Perhaps most interestingly, the microblogging site Twitter has also been awarded “Breakout of the year”. This category above all the others shows how adaptable the web really is. Twitter really did break out, it is amazing who quickly new ideas are adopted on the internet. Online marketing has been taking advantage of the twitter, the way that many of the recent breaking news stories have relied on twitter to find out what was happening at the heart of the story (for example during the Mumbai attacks of last year people were “tweeting” from within the hotels that were under siege). In their press release the Webbies explained that Twitter had won its category because “Everyone from candidates and celebrities to customers and protestors can share their two-cents and shape public opinion”. This is what the internet has unleashed – people power – and the Webbies have embraced this too. So the People’s Choice awards exist, it is perhaps this brand of Webbies that is the most important, so if you don’t agree with the choices just join the panel for the 14th annual Webby awards.
In the meantime, of course you can enjoy the red carpet extravaganza from the comfort of your laptop via Youtube
where highlights will be broadcast. And the best bit … there will be no worthy, tear-filled, Oscar style acceptance speeches. The winners are restricted to speeches of 5 words, last year on winning Person of the Year, Stephen Colbert simply said “me, me, me, me, me”.
The Webbies in Five Words… even better than the Oscars