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Tracey S. Roth

Dot Com Commerce

Managing Editor, [email protected] CENTER CRM Solutions

[May 17, 2000]

Forget The Oscars, Bring On The Webbys

The lights. The glitz. The celebrities. The awards. The Oscars? Noit's the Webby Awards. The Webbys are organized by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), which is fully owned by IDG.net, and are considered by some to be the preeminent awards for Web sites. The awards, implemented to honor creativity and innovation on the Internet, were handed out at The 4th Annual Webby Awards ceremony, which took place amid a great deal of flash on May 11 in San Francisco. How different can this awards ceremony be from others? Well, for one thing, there seemed to be a lot less Armani, and for another, acceptance speeches were limited to five words. (Though rumor has it one winner broke the speech limit and spoke seven words.) Tony Award-winning actor Alan Cumming (Cabaret), was featured as a presenter of the Webbys' curious, spring-shaped gold statues.

The awards are separated into categories and are two-pronged. First, there are the Webbys themselves, which are chosen by a panel of IADAS judges. The list of judges is extensive and reads like a Who's Who of the Rich, Beautiful and Very, Very Famous. Peppered through the list of judges are names such as Dilbert creator Scott Adams, David Bowie, Julia Child (I haven't quite figured this one out yet, either), Olympic gold-medallist runner Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Deborah Norville, Francis Ford Coppola, Jerry Greenfield (better known to the ice cream world as the other half of Ben), new-age guru Deepak Chopra and author Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence), along with a host of journalists, educators, corporate big cheeses, psychologists, politicians, lawyers, writers and television and film personalities.

The second half of the awards are called The People's Voice Award. Ballots cast by the online community are counted to determine the winners. More than 134,000 Netizens registered to vote for The People's Voice, and it seems likely as the Webbys become more prominent, that number will increase sharply next year.

Both the Webbys and The People's Voice Awards cover 27 categories: activism, arts, broadband, commerce, community, education, fashion, film, finance, games, health, humor, kids, living, music, news, personal Web sites, politics and law, print and magazines, radio, science, services, sports, technical achievement, TV, travel and "weird." Notable winners of Webbys included BabyCenter for the commerce category, the legally beleaguered Napster.com in the music category, Google.com for technical achievement, The Onion in the humor category, Media News for news, Video Farm for broadband and Gamespy Industry for, logically enough, games. (Robin Williams was a judge in this category, being, apparently, an avid gamer.) I would have provided the URL here for the "weird" winner, since I am always amused by offbeat and twisted things, but I visited the site and found it to be offensive, mindless and containing about as much innovative material as the average bowl of store-brand cornflakes.

While the Webbys may initially smell like so much hype, they do seem to serve a purpose. Winning a Webby could raise a site's profile to the point that hits, advertising, venture capital and partnership opportunities flow in far faster and more liberally than before. Without exposure, a site cannot thrive or even continue to exist, and these sites and the individuals behind them certainly received thatand then some. According to those in the know, the ceremony attracted over 3,000 attendees and 27 different countries submitted sites to last year's call for entries.

If you are interested in viewing the somewhat goofy ceremony or seeing photos of the after-parties, you can visit www.webbyawards.com and see the archived Webcast. At the risk of sounding like a Cosmo fashion editor, you must check out emcee Alan Cumming'serrinnovative hairdo.

Are you coveting a Webby yet? Do something about it: Hop onto the Webby Awards site and nominate your own site for consideration. The 2001 Webby Awards call for entries begins May 17, 2000. Each site you submit will cost you $75, which the IADAS states is to cover administrative costs for qualified "site testers" to thoroughly review your Web site. Judging is assigned by category, so it's unlikely you'll have Emeril Lagasse reviewing your broadband site or Cindy Crawford weighing the merits of your mortgage calculator.

If you win, thank me in your acceptance speech. Only remember to keep it to five words or less.

Rich, beautiful and very, very famous people can contact the author at troth@tmcnet.com.

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