April 14, 2011 5:37pm PT by Tim Appelo
The Webby Awards Are A-Changin'
Unable to find a newspaper job in 1996, David-Michel Davies instead started running the judging process for the Webby Awards, which honor significant, new, and/or weird websites.
Today, DMD (as he's known) is executive director of the Webbys, which announced Tuesday the nominees for the awards, whose June 13 New York ceremony will be live streamed by MLB Advanced Media (which delivered a quarter-billion streams of baseball games in 2010, says a Webby spokesman).
The New York Times, where DMD likely couldn't get arrested in 1996, is among over 10,000 entrants which reportedly shell out millions of dollars a year collectively for a two-percent chance of winning a Webby. For its efforts, the Times was rewarded with 18 nominations, more than any other publication or website, allowing it to boast that it leads the competition not only in Pulitzers but in Webbys.
The Gray Lady's closest Webby nominee competitor is Funny or Die (10), showing where our culture is headed -- from illustrious seriousness to circumambient snark. "In 15 years, we've never seen an Internet that's this much at the core of popular culture," says DMD. "We have about 1,000 members in 30 countries who participate in the judging -- David Bowie in music, [Twitter cofounder] Biz Stone in community-based categories. The voting is also open to the public. We got about a million votes last year. We're hoping to just crush that this year because there's so many more people online, it's like doubled in five years, and people are much more connected."
DMD keeps the Webbys close to its humor roots as it ranges ever further in its attempt to categorize the barely categorizable, from best viral marketing (noms: the Old Spice guy, OK Go, Mad Men, True Blood, Google Translate for Animals) to best mobile games (Angry Birds could be a frontrunner) to Best Weird. "I'm a big fan of that category," says DMD. "What the [Expletive] Should I Make for Dinner? is pretty funny and the kinda stuff we love. I aim to see things in there that are really weird."
The Webbys have a collegiate-humor vibe -- best humor category nom Collegehumor.com's Jake and Amir host the Nominee Announcement Video. But the web times are a-changin' even for those not forever young. Bob Dylan will have another hit at 70 if his performance in D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back mashed up with Google Instant beats the Old Spice guy and others for the Interactive Advertising Webby. Depression-era cook Clara Cannucciari, 94, vies with Zach Galifianakis, 41, for best web personality. AARP reports that over-age-65 is the fastest-growing demo on Facebook. Since this fall, Facebook-using men and women over 55 increased about 138 percent and 175 percent respectively.
Plainly, the web is trending for all ages, and that may be good news for the Webbys. What's the next big thing for the web and the Webbys, in DMD's expert opinion? "Once TVs get connected to the internet in a meaningful way, we'll be all over it," says DMD. He recommends this video on the future of TV. "Instead of a channel guide that doesn't say anything, you'll be able to see the programs your friends liked and how often they watched it. It's like, I have a friend whose movie opinions I trust -- I basically just don't think about what movies to rent anymore, I just look at what he rented and that's how I decide. It's information that's available online but not on your TV yet, for some reason. I think probably in the next year to 18 months we're gonna see it take off."
But one thing will never change: Webby thank-you speeches will remain five words long (the most famous: Al Gore's "Please don't recount this vote."). "On the 10th anniversary we thought it would be fun to go to ten words, but we just didn't think ten words would be that much better," says DMD. "What would you say in ten words that you couldn't say in five?"