WILL THERE BE AN ‘OSCAR’ OF THE INTERNET?

By: Gina McIntyre

Something For Everyone: Webbys, Wammys, EPpys, Edgies



by Gina McIntyre



(The Hollywood
Reporter) There are certain markers in life – seeing your
picture on a bubblegum card, having an action figure molded in your own
likeness and, of course, being the correct final answer on ‘Who Wants
to Be a Millionaire.’



This means Tiffany Shlain’s 5-year-old Webby Awards are now an official
success. The event, one of the oldest Internet-based award shows, was
created to salute outstanding achievement on the Web, and it appeared
on Regis Philbin’s television hit and its counterpart ‘Jeopardy’
earlier this year.



But the Webbys are only part of a larger phenomenon. In an age when
television award shows crop up faster than new boy bands on MTV, the
Internet is proving that it, too, can produce the things.



From the Hollywood Internet Awards to the Pixies and the Wammys and the
Webbys to the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Film Festival and Online
Music Awards, the number of award-based fetes is experiencing
unprecedented growth.



And with new big-name players like the Sundance Film Festival entering
the awards arena almost daily, the phenomenon poses the question: who’s
watching? And with so many out there, what do these accolades really
mean?



‘Every industry has awards programs that honor people,’ Shlain said.
‘Ultimately, awards shows are just about saying, ‘This is good; this is
bad; this is the best.”



Hollywood Internet Awards’ Lon Weingart added, ‘I think it gives
awareness and recognition to a lot of content that’s happening on the
Web that people are not aware of.’



For Weingart’s event (www.NetAwards.com), Internet users and a panel of
industry professionals evaluate nominees on content, design and
technical excellence. Honors are given out in categories such as best
major movie studio site, best independent film site, best major record
label site, best game site, best TV site and best animation site. This
year’s winners include mgm.com, ifilm.com, shockwave.com and msnbc.com.



Similar criteria are employed to determine the winners of the Yahoo!
Internet Life Online Music Awards, said Andrew Kramer, executive
producer of the awards and publisher of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine.



But Shlain maintains that the Webbys differ from many of their online
counterparts – and not just because acceptance speeches are
limited to five words.



Determined to legitimize the event, Shlain created the Academy of
Digital Arts and Sciences, comprised of more than 300 judges, to select
the winners, and hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit the ballots. Two
awards are given out in each category – the Webby Award itself and
a people’s voice award, which allows Internet users to vote for winners
in each of 29 categories.



The 2000 event generated more than 150,000 votes in the people’s voice
category. ‘This was a breakthrough year for us,’ Shlain said.



But with so many online contenders struggling to become the ‘Oscars of
the Internet,’ even the event organizers realize they must take a
pragmatic approach to their future.



‘There’s a small window of opportunity to get out there, and a lot of
people sort of jockey for position,’ Kramer said. ‘After that window
closes, really only the strongest survive.’



Internet.com Internet stock analyst Tom Taulli said financial backing
and successful promotion will become the key to building a name that is
big enough to survive in the increasingly competitive online events
space.



‘I don’t think we’ll see a lot of these things be successful,’ Taulli
said. ‘I think there is a saturation point. Something like the Oscars
will take time to develop. I think it’s possible, but it’s not
something that will automatically occur. It will probably just take
years to unfold and build credibility.’



Shlain, however, thinks the boundlessness of the Web extends to its
award shows.



‘Look at the film award show space or the music award show space,’ she
said. ‘There’s a lot of room for second, third, fourth, fifth in (each)
category. I think there’s a lot of room, and I feel very happy that
we’re in the forefront.’



For information on the 2001 EPpy Awards, click here.













(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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