Sitting on my desk is a call for entries to the 2005 Webby Awards, which will be announced on December 16th. According to the neon quotes blazing across the flyer, these are “the online Oscars”, “the index of success in the global new media scene”; an event that “celebrates sites that pave important paths to the Internet’s next phase.”
Which, I guess, is why the fee to enter a site is $245. Per category.
I can afford $245. Evan Williams, Craig Newmark and Dave Winer can all certainly afford $245. Jim Bloggs, furiously creating the next big thing in his basement on a borrowed Pentium 2, probably can’t, and I think that’s where these kinds of events really fall down: if they recognise something as being up and coming, it’s probably upped and come and on its way to millions of dollars. Whereas grass-roots recognition – awards like the Edublogs, or the kind of recognition that comes every day through people linking to sites from their blogs – is both free and worth a lot more.
Back in, ooh, 1998 or so, the web was full of awards sites. You’d fill in a little form with your URL and a handful of categories, and somewhere an editor would get an email and check out your site. If it was good enough, you’d get a little graphic and link to stick on your page. Sometime, probably around the dotcom bubble, someone worked out that this was a scam – the awards sites, often covered with ads, were convincing people to beg them for the right to proudly display a link to them. The Webbys seem, to me, to be a bit like this. It’s a very old media concept – the sites pay for advertising, and get a certain amount of promotion – dragged kicking and screaming onto the Internet. It will probably go for a very long time, but I’d be very surprised if anything really new or interesting ever gets highlighted.