Earlier this week, the winners of the 21st Webby Awards – dubbed as ‘Internet’s Highest Honour’ by the New York Times – were announced. The much anticipated glittering award show will be held at Cipriani Wall Street, on the 15th of May. This year, the winners were chosen from over 13000 entries (coming in from 70+ countries across the globe), giving credence to the fact that the Webby Awards is indeed the biggest and the most prestigious annual award ceremony related to the World Wide Web. In what follows, we will take a look around at some interesting information about Webby Awards 2017:
They say that a star-studded, glitzy award ceremony simply cries out for a good host – and the Webby Awards have never failed to deliver in this regard. Over the years (the ceremony was first held in 1996), eminent names from the fields of internet and television, like Rob Corddry, Seth Meyers, B.J. Novak, Lisa Kudrow (that’s the delightful ‘Phoebe’ from F.R.I.E.N.D.S.), Hannibal Buress and Nick Offerman have graced the podium as the show’s hosts. This year, the mantle will be taken over by none other than the celebrated American comedian Joel Edward McHale (from CBS’ ‘The Great Indoors’). The Webby Awards have a reputation of being very witty events (in 2016, Patton Oswalt rode a horse while giving the ‘Best Viral Video’ prize to Jimmy Kimmel!). Expect laughters to flow and audiences to enjoy every moment of the function this year too.
The organizing body of the Webby Awards is the International Academy Of Digital Arts and Sciences, or IADAS. Several former Webby winners and nominees are a part of the 2000-strong Academy, which also has many leading business personalities, creative celebrities, online service experts, and other well-known members. The Academy is also in charge of selecting the nominees for all the award categories. Given the fact that the members had to sort from approximately 13K entries from more than 50 states – the Academy sure had a serious job to do…something that they did well.
The Award Categories
The Webby Awards were first launched just after the first-gen digital revolution (i.e., the arrival of the World Wide Web). Since then, as the web has grown in size and scope, the Awards have very nicely kept pace with it. In 2017, the Webby Awards ceremony will felicitate winners from as many as 6 media categories – a) Advertising, Media & PR, b) Websites, c) Social, d) Film & Video, e) Mobile Sites & Apps, and f) Podcasts & Digital Audio. As a mobile app company, we particularly dig the fact that sub-topics covered under ‘Mobile Sites & Apps’ – visual design, content, interactivity, structure and navigation – are really exhaustive.
Note: 2 Awards are given out in each category. The first is the Webby Award (winners chosen by the IADAS) and the second is the Webby People’s Voice Award (winners chosen through online voting).
4. The Winners
On April 25, the list of final winners of Webby Awards were announced. As has been the case for the last 3-4 years, millions of votes poured in – and everything had to be carefully checked, to come up with the winners’ list. Lady Gaga bagged the ‘Integrated Campaign (Film & Video)’ award, Buzzfeed was voted as the ‘Best Interview/Talk Show For Another Round’ as well as the ‘Best News App’, Jimmy Kimmel Live! was, expectedly, the ‘Best Comedy’, and ‘HBO Now’ was chosen as the ‘Best Chosen Video’. Beyonce’s ‘Formation’ helped her grab an award, while the insanely popular mobile game ‘Pokemon Go’ was also among the major winners. Other successes at the 21st Webby Awards included names like ‘Spotify’ (Best Music App; Best Streaming Audio), ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ (Best Celebrity/Fan Social Presence’, the much-loved ‘Game of Thrones’ (‘Best Overall Social Presence’), and ‘Planned Parenthood’ (Best Charitable Organization). In the ‘Websites’ category, ‘FactCheck.org’ and ‘Squarespace’ were among the winners.
Note: In all, 407 winners were announced. With 11 Webby awards, National Geographic had the most success.
5. The Judges
It takes one to know one…and as far as the Webby Awards are concerned, the team of judges comprises of individuals who indeed have the credentials to make the best selection from the nominees. Biz Stone, Alex Blumberg, Kevin Spacey, Shane Smith, Eva Chen and Jimmy Kimmel are some of the celebrities in the Executive Academy of the IADAS. There is significant representation from media and publication houses too, like The LA Times, Elle, Wallpaper, Details, and The New York Times.
Note: The first round of judging is done by the Associate Members of the Academy. The Executive Members take over after that.
For a high-profile annual extravaganza like the Webbys, it is hardly surprising to see the biggest of brands and organizations making a beeline to become its official sponsors and partners. The 2017 edition of the event includes HBO, Mustache, YouTube, Vitamin T and Epsilon in its team of sponsors. The Hollywood Reporter, Digiday, Billboard and WNYC feature among the many media partners of the ceremony. In 2016, online and print media (along with broadcasts) combined to generate well over 2.5 billion media impressions of the event. The Webby Awards are well-publicized, that’s for sure!
The Special Achievement Awards
Apart from the regular winners, 6 ‘Special Achievement’ prizes have been announced for this year’s Webby Awards. The ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Actress’ awards went to Steve Buscemi and Gillian Anderson respectively – while Solange was recognized as the ‘Webby Artist Of The Year’. BBDO won in the ‘Agency of The Year’ category, Van Jones took the ‘Webby Special Achievement’ prize, and Women’s March won as the ‘Social Movement of the Year’. The ‘Webby Lifetime Achievement’ award went to Internet Archive.
Within the 6 broad categories, there are more than 100 sub-categories for which entries can be sent. Only the best five entries from the millions received are selected as the final list of nominees. Keeping in perspective the huge volume of entries submitted, the IADAS also selects a few ‘Official Honorees’ (apart from the nominees). Only if an entry is deemed to be ‘outstanding’ by the judges’ panel, it is selected as an ‘Honoree’. The competition is humongous – with a measly 14%-15% entries actually making it to this list of ‘Honorees’.
Note: The academy reserves the right of deciding the number of ‘Honorees’ in each category. A category might well have no ‘Official Honoree’ at all.
Standing as a winner on the podium of the Webby Awards ceremony is hallowed experience – and the trophies are fittingly beautiful as well. The lovely ‘Webby Statuette’ is handed to each winner at the event (and they can buy duplicate statuettes later), while all the nominees receive framed and completely customized certificates. In passing, it should be mentioned that the ‘Webby Statuette’ is completely hand-casted, and that adds to its charm. The websites of the winners receive badges.
As already mentioned above, the 21st Webby Awards ceremony will be organized on 15 May at the Cipriani Wall Street (from 7:00 pm). The event will be preceded by the ‘Opening Cocktail Reception’ – where the guests will get excellent networking opportunities with peers and industry leaders. The activities kickstart the previous day itself (May 14), with the ‘5-Word Speech Recording Day’ (for winners) and the ‘Webby Sunset Cocktails’, where Johnny Walker will be one of the co-hosts. The after-party of Webby Awards 2017 will be held at the Highline Ballroom on May 15, right after the awards ceremony (from 10:00 PM).
Note: The event will be streamed online on 16 May.
11. The Newsletter
A high-profile media event like the Webby Awards, understandably, has its very own newsletter. Named ‘011’, the newsletter offers readers all the latest information and tidbits about the awards in particular, and the IADAS in general. In addition, ‘411 announcements’ are sent to every ‘011’ subscriber – provided that they have opted in for the special Webby Awards messages and notifications. Subscribing to the information-rich ‘011’ is the best possible way to keep track of all that is happening related to Webby.
12. The Criticism
For all its merits and the huge craze that surrounds it every year, the Webby Awards (and along with it, the Academy) comes in for one criticism in particular – about its ‘pay-to-enter’ policy. Even the awardees and the nominees have to pay the designated registration fee to participate in the event. In fairness though, it has to be said that the entree fee fund provide a much more ‘reliable’ and ‘sustainable’ model of growth and judging of the Webby Awards. Relying only on sponsorship deals is not a particularly bright idea.
The Webby Awards annually recognizes excellence in the field of internet, web services and media. Participants can hail from all over the world (not restricted to US entries only) – and entries in foreign languages are also accepted (although the Academy encourages participants to include English subtitles, translations, and dubbings, as applicable). Two things, in particular, stand out about the Webby Awards – the completely fair and transparent judging system, and the unwavering focus to the feature. The Awards have been instrumental in improving the standard of the internet over the last couple of decades, and the good work will surely continue in the future.
All eyes, then, on the Webby Award Ceremony 2017. It’s going to be big!