Are the Webby Awards a sham?

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File
Actor Seth Meyers poses at a film premiere in this 2008 file photo. Meyers will host the 13th annual Webby awards on May 5.

That's the case being made today by Gawker, the media gossip site. In a post on the award winners, which were announced today, columnist Owen Thomas argues that the Webbys "were always a joke, a masquerade where Internet fanboys and fangirls played dress-up and feigned the red-carpet rituals of Hollywood's real ceremonies."

But at some point, things changed:

[The] organizers figured out that this goofy charade could be milked for profit. And now that mainstream entertainers like Jimmy Fallon and Seth McFarlane are sweeping this year's awards, the parodic circle is complete.

Thomas' central complaints are the explosion of categories at the 2009 Webbys and the high cost of entry. As Andy Baio has noted on his blog, the number of categories has increased exponentially over the years, offering sites across the spectrum a chance at snagging at the winner's circle. But to get considered for an award, a site owner would have to fork over up to $275 – no small sum.

Of course folks have had gripes with the Webby Awards for years. Consider the essay Jack Shafer penned last year about the whole debacle:

There's so much excellence being honored on the Webby Awards site that you need a mainframe to tote it up. I count nearly 600 nominees and upward of 1,100 honorees. The group would have you believe that it's a tough competition, boasting that of the nearly 10,000 contestants this year, fewer than 15 percent were official honorees. Please. I've heard of mail-order diploma mills that are more exclusive than the Webbys.


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