Dialogue: David-Michel Davies

In the 'year of online video,' the Webby director holds a front-row seat.

As executive director of the Webby Awards and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences since 2005, David-Michel Davies -- better known by friends and colleagues as "DMD" -- has held a front-row seat to the online video revolution that dominated tech headlines in 2006. Born in Paris to a French mother and an American father, Davies grew up in California, then spent three years running his own new-media consultation service in Paris, where his clients included the Webbys -- the company whose expansion plans would bring him back to the States. He sat down with The Hollywood Reporter's Alex Woodson to discuss why broadband has helped the Internet explode with new content and what programrs and viewers can expect going forward.

The Hollywood Reporter: Why did you add the original content category to the Webby Awards this year?
David-Michel Davies: We just got a lot of demand for it from the Webby community -- the judges in our academy, our entrants, including the media companies, all the independent people making Web sites and all the Internet companies. A lot of people came to us and said, "This is really taking off and it's a native thing to the Internet, and we're really looking to the Webby Awards to honor it." And from our own standpoint of doing this every year and looking at trends, it was very obvious that this was the year of online.

THR: What makes it the "year of online video"?
Davies: For a number of years, we've seen all these pieces starting to line up, but there was always this last piece that wasn't there. A couple of years ago, we started to see the amount of bandwidth for consumers increase as the price of bandwidth decreased. We saw (high-definition) cameras go from $20,000 to $2,000 or $3,000. An Avid suite for editing used to be $30,000-$40,000, and now we have Final Cut Pro, which is $1,000 or $2,000. The last thing that wasn't in place was that it was still really hard for the viewer to watch this stuff online. One thing that's really obvious about technology is that when it's easy, people use it. That was the last piece that was missing, and I think that's what happened with the Flash 9 video player that Adobe put out. That made the entire experience much more excellent for consumers. As soon as you started lining up all these consumers who suddenly were into this stuff and loved it, then the companies and the content players and the creators recognized there was a market there and started making more of it. It was basically a perfect storm.

THR: Online video has become increasingly commercialized -- is that a good thing or a bad thing for the creators?
Davies: If you talk to any actor or director or writer or anyone involved in the creation of video content, ultimately what they want is their work to be seen. If the Internet is a breaking place, I think that's fantastic. If television and movie deals and so forth come of that, it just gives them a greater opportunity to be successful. But ultimately, the Internet is going to be the destination. The potential audience on the Internet is much bigger. Anybody in the world who has access to a computer and bandwidth can watch what you put up on the Internet, and that's not the case with a film or something on television where you might have to have access to a certain cable provider. Eventually, the Internet will be the destination for where your work will live.

THR: How do you keep the Webby Awards relevant to an audience that probably doesn't watch too many awards shows?
Davies: The general model of the awards show is a little stale. With the Webby Awards, we really think, "What's the intrinsic quality of the Internet?" The answer is participation. We really try to bring that into the actual Webby Awards itself. Instead of having people thank whomever it is that nobody has ever heard of onstage, we ask them to come up with a five-word speech. That becomes a big content portion of the show, and people love that. Also, other than the winners that the (IADAS) chooses, we also have the Webby People's Voice. We had almost 500,000 people from all over the world come to the site and vote. It's really bringing that spirit of participation that you find on the Internet into the awards -- themselves.

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