Most people know this reporter to be fairly positive in her reviews. However, I was bitterly disappointed by the 10th Annual Webby Awards this year. So, gentle readers, be forewarned--there's some strong language below!
The canyons of finance are alleys and digital pathways were traversed on Monday, June 12, 2006 for the new titans of the world at the 10th Annual Webby Awards. Held at the posh former New York Merchants Exchange, Cipriani Wall Street's Greek revival architecture and grandeur spoke to the new level of grandness that (as some call it) Web 2.0 is reaching. And yet, this awards show was bitterly disappointing.
The areas of my complaints are as follows: branding, speeches, event agenda and honorees.
If the NYTimes called the Webby's "the Oscars of the Internet" and Time Magazine "the online Oscars," they lived up to their reputation because, like the Oscars, the Webby's were booooring this year!
What is the Webby brand? Is it truly the San Francisco-born award encapsulating the irreverence, spontaneity, fun and wackiness of the Web. Or is it trying to be (like the Web in many ways) grown-up and serious business? Either way--I felt this event was a flop. Perhaps it was because of creative constraints by the sponsors, perhaps because of financial constraints of keeping the event "in the black," in which case, I'd say--reevaluating might've brought it back closer to the Webby's original identity.
If they were trying to be sophisticated because they're in glamorous New York City, then make it glamorous, not like a business-luncheon awards show! Apparently the choice for Cipriani's Wall Street was due to its ability to accommodate the thousands of people they invited (perhaps to get some profitability out of it?) and thus were forced to find a venue that could handle the size.
But why force us through an awards show that was halted for each course? Or why interrupt our dining experience with the speeches? It would be fine if the three-course meal was presented first and then we could sit back and relax for the show. Or, if they were afraid we'd all leave after having our famed Cipriani Bellinis and risotto, have us sit through the awards first and then bring on the risotto. But either way--interrupting both for the other was just annoying.
And the speeches?!!! Please people! Let's lighten up! This is the Webby awards--not the Clio, or ANDYS's or the One Show, or E&Y's Entrepreneur of the Year, or the....well, I guess they're all getting boring. The five-word acceptance speeches were just plain ol' lame! Everyone was so serious! Come on people! Lamest of all was Nerve.com's. Nerve is supposed to be the "online literary smut magazine." They are supposed to speak to hipsters and challenge us with urban sex lit for a new generation. And yet their 5-word acceptance speech was in reference to their upcoming new magazine, focusing on parenting and babies. Come on! Use a press release for that. This is a chance to make a statement and, especially in Nerve's case, scintillate.
I even suggested a GREAT one to Nerve co-founder Rufus Griscom and editorial director Michael Martin as they were trying to come up with one at the reception before the show. It was so simple, and yet so brilliant and perfect for who they are! Okay? Ready? Think of Meg Ryan in the famous scene from "When Harry Met Sally" in Katz's Deli... It's just "oh. Oh! OH! OH! OHHhHHHHHhhhhhh!" Get it? Isn't that the best? And can you believe they rejected that for the very boring and cryptic "Sex Begets Babies September 2006." Can you say "booohring!"
Anyway, despite all my gripes, I had a lovely time at my table with fellow diners Stellah Deville, Michael Grossman, Michael Kaminer, Sherman'sTravel.com's CEO & Publisher James H. Sherman, Mr. and Mrs. Shlain and ForSaleByOwner.com's founder and president Damon Giglio.
Yeah, Prince came. Big deal. I really want to see the webby's honoring not just "big media" "big name" (get the sponsors) but the people who are truly down-in-the trenches changing the web and thus the world. The "real" people. The way the Webby's kinda used to be. Maybe I should just create my own awards show and call it the Pulitzer Prizens or The Courtneys!
Anyway, this IADAS judge gives the whole thing a thumbs down. Maybe the Afterparty was what they felt would be the hip-redeeming factor. Yet-- why save it for the After-party? Again--I suspect money and sponsor controls.
Okay, so if you're not in "wacky ess eff" but are in "sophisticated NYC," then make it sophisticated. Which brings up my next point, this is the 2nd year the Webby's were in NYC. I complained about this last year and I'll say it again--if it's so important to be in NYC and they recognize how important NYC is to the Web world, then why is it so difficult to honor some NYC web-trenpreners?! I mean REALLY!?!!!! I know plenty and I'm sure many of you reading this (especially if you've stuck with me this far) are just as qualified for a Webby as Craig Newmark. That was the biggest insult of all--the first year the Webby's come to NYC they honor a San Francisco-based person. I mean, I love Craig as much as the next person, I really do. But when will they REALLY get it about what it means to be in NYC? It's very frustrating because I know Tiffany and David-Michel are intelligent people. I just really wonder who they're consulting for these things? Perhaps next year they will get back to their roots, to the glory and fun of what the web and the Webby's can be and consult with and honor some real New Yorkers.