Webby Awards to Laud Site Traffic

By Erin Joyce

Cutting edge design and e-commerce numbers can co-exist when it comes to Internet awards, according to the founders of the Webby Awards. So why not recognize high traffic numbers along with snazzy site presentation and content?

Say no more. The Webby Awards, the edgy party to celebrate top Web content and design, are doing just that with three new award categories based on site traffic: Rising Star, Top U.S. Property and Top Global Property.

But the way in which the awards will be decided could get the attention of online advertisers too.

In what it is calling a digital twist to a television industry institution, The International Academy of Arts and Sciences, which helps administer the awards, and Web research firm Nielsen//NetRatings will use the month of May as “Sweeps Month” to measure which sites drew the most traffic.

The Internet properties with the highest traffic during the month will get the statues, just like in the television world where the highest audience numbers during ratings “sweeps” are awarded the best advertising rates.

The development is akin to the Grammy Awards merging with the American Music Awards in the music industry. The former relies on artistic merit categories; the latter factors in sales before handing out its awards.

Maya Draisin, executive director of the International Academy of Arts and Sciences, said the analogy works.

“The goal of the academy is to promote the industry and to help promote growth. This is one way to find out what’s popular and award sites that continue to push the envelope.”

So art and commerce can get along in the edgy celebration that usually defines the Webbies? “Absolutely,” said Draisin. “I think it’s a fantastic combination. It will lend itself to innovation. A focus on ROI (return on investment) will add sustainability to cutting edge focus.”

The Rising Star award will go to the fastest growing site in May 2002, based on unique visitors to the site. Those numbers will be compared to the first four months of the year according to Nielsen//NetRatings data. The other two categories, Top U.S. Property and Top Global Property, will reward the Web sites that attract the most surfers in the U.S. and globally during the month of May. Sites must meet a minimum reporting cutoff of 500,000 unique visitors to be considered, the Webby Award organizers said.

And word to the wise: Ad campaigns to help boost “uniques” are not welcome. “Any sites that employ special advertising or marketing strategies such as pop-up ads to boost their ratings are not eligible. Additionally, sites that contain pornographic material, (and) propagate ‘hate’ messages, make defamatory statements are not eligible.”

Ad campaigns may not be welcome, but the positioning potential for future advertising accounts is unmistakable. Just like the frenzy that hits the television world for the four “sweeps” months, when audience measurement dictates advertising rates the networks can charge, the Webby Sweeps could mean advertising potential for sites that are later singled out for awards.

“It’s a great way to learn and discover what drives traffic online,” Draisin said.

The May Sweeps also give “sites an incentive to develop their best content, drawing surfers in for a visit,” said Sean Kaldor, vice president, analytics and corporate marketing, NetRatings.

The awards are scheduled to be held in San Francisco in June.

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