SA Blog Awards 2010 have devalued SA blogging!

The SA Blog Awards is a good idea, and can be a good measurement of success and performance in a field that bloggers were never trained for, by raising the standard of blogging in Southern Africa.   It is a shame that the 2010 SA Blog Awards were so poorly organised, and that it has been dogged by controversy.  At the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting earlier this week, long-standing blogger Dax Villanueva of Relax-with-Dax Blog said that the controversy surrounding the SA Blog Awards had devalued blogging, instead of enhancing it!

Ever since the SA Blog Awards were announced on Twitter about 2 months ago, they have been criticised for their change in procedure compared to previous years.  When the shortlist of 10 finalists for each of the 24 blog categories was announced on 1 September, there was even more criticism and very bitchy commenting by those that did not make the top 10 list in their category, and by those who disparaged others by questioning why some bloggers had made the Top 10 list in specific categories.  When the top two winners per category were announced, and most Top 10 short-listed bloggers were excluded from the Awards Dinner at the One&Only Cape Town last night, the knives really came out, and the organisation of the SA Blog Awards was severely criticised.

Guest of Honour Western Cape Premier Helen Zille spoke at the Awards evening about how “bloggers are the new voice of society” and how blogs “link the local with the big picture”.  The premier, no slouch herself on the social media scene with around 115 000 Facebook friends and one of country’s first verified Twitter accounts, said that digital communications were a “force for entrenching democracy”.  “Everything breaks immediately and is commented on and analysed before it hits the press… it’s a problem for newspapers and I wouldn’t want to be a newspaper editor in this day. It’s made it more difficult to control what information is transmitted”, reports Memeburn, one of the award-winning blogs.

So what were the complaints?:

1.  The announcement of the call for nominations of the SA Blog Awards was on Twitter only.   If one was not on Twitter, or did not follow SA Blog Awards on Twitter, one would not have known about the Awards, or may have been delayed in participating, in seeing Tweets by others about the call for nominations.

2.  The rules of the Awards seemed to have been made up as they went along – the fact that voting was encouraged at Nomination stage already was not clear, and irritated Twitterers, in that they were bombarded with Nomination vote requests.  The process of nomination was also not clear, with a message popping up, telling one that one could not nominate a blog more than twice on the same e-mail address. 

3.  The organisers of the SA Blog Awards were not identified on the SA Blog Awards website, and via Tweets one could put together the information that 2009 Blog winner in the Business category (Dave Duarte) and Chris Rawlinson, winner in the Marketing category, had got together with JP Naude (an infrequent blogger, by his own admission on his site: “Yes I don’t blog much… I’m a businessman and radio presenter” – prior to this mini-blog post earlier this month, JP had last blogged in May! He is a presenter on Good Hope FM) as Chairman of the SA Blog Awards. I met JP at the Vista Bar after the Blog Awards presentation, and he told me that his company organised the SA Blog Awards.  I was shocked when I saw a comment on the shortlisted Bangers and Nash blog, written by SA Blog Awards committee member Chris Rawlinson a few months ago, congratulating Dan Nash on his blog, and stating that a good blog should carry the f-word at least once a day!   So much for the quality of the judges!  (I did get to meet Dan Nash at the Vista Bar, having had dinner at Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town, and he was very generous in handing out tequila).

4.  When the top 10 shortlist was announced per category, the list was on the SA Blog Awards website, and top 10 finalists were only notified by e-mail the following day.  At no stage was an e-mail with the rules ever sent to all nominees.   One had to find information on the website, and this seemed to be amended as the SA Blog Awards progressed.

5.  Previous participants were shocked as to who made the top 10 shortlist, especially those that had won in previous years.  In the Food & Wine Blog category, for example, eight out of ten 2009 finalists did not make it in 2010.  The Relax-with-Dax, Scrumptious, Spit or Swallow, Rossouw’s Restaurants and Neil Pendock’s blogs all fell out of this category, with only the My Easy Cooking and Cooksister Blogs making the 2010 shortlist again.   Relax-with-Dax and Spit or Swallow did make the Microblogging/Twitter shortlist, however, a surprise to them too.

6.   As the SA Blog Awards developed, more and more sponsors were announced for the categories, but not all categories were sponsored (e.g. our Whale Cottage Blog made the shortlist in the Most Controversial Blog category, which did not attract a sponsor!)   In 2009, the ‘old hands’ and finalists tell me, they all went home with prizes.  It appears that despite sponsors coming on board, the category prizes were a little perspex obelisk with the SA Blog Awards logo on it.  This gives little incentive to enter the Awards competition in 2011.   Sponsors’ monies appear to have been used to pay for the dinner, and to compensate JP Naude’s company for organising the Awards.

7.   The highlight for the 2009 finalists was the SA Blog Awards dinner, I have been told, even if the bloggers did not win.  It was a great networking platform, and an honour to have attended.  In pre-announcing the top 2 out of the top 10 of each category this year, the Awards dinner was reduced to about 50 finalists, and only those got to attend the dinner – in the last minute the rules were changed, in that the SA Blog Awards website announced that the dinner was ‘by invitation only’.  Initially the Awards dinner date was set for yesterday (over a long weekend!), leading one to assume that all top 10 finalists would be invited to attend it.

8.  The voting phase for each category spanned about two weeks, and one felt like an Idols’ finalist, begging for votes on one’s blog and on Twitter.   I think that the more the finalists begged, the fewer votes they received.  One was allowed to vote once a day per valid e-mail address one has.  So, for example, someone with 10 e-mail addresses could cast 10 votes daily!   The actual weighting of votes by ‘fans’ and the judges evaluation was only recently stated as being 30 % of the vote by the judges, and 70 % from the public.  The judges per category were also not all announced – on one specific day the judges of some of the 24 categories were named on Twitter, and some judges also proudly tweeted that they were judging blogs (e.g. Jo-Ann Strauss, Sam Wilson and her husband Andreas Späth).  We never got to hear the names of the judge(s) of the Most Controversial Blog category, for example.  Mention was also made that blog ranking statistics would be taken into consideration as well, being Afrigator specifically, a site that frequently goes down.  The question was raised as to the effect it would have on one’s standing if one was not registered on this ranking site.  Oddly, few of the top-ranked Afrigator blogs were in the finals.  It is clear that the larger the number of readers of one’s Blog, and the greater the Twitter following, the higher one’s votes would have been likely to be.   The top first and second winners per category were notified by e-mail that they had made it, and they were listed on the website too.  The remaining 8 finalists per category were not notified by the organisers, and were only told that if they did NOT receive an e-mail, they would know that they had not made it as number 1 or 2!   This was the rudest aspect of the SA Blog Awards organisation, in my opinion.  Many Blog finalists had put in a lot of effort to encourage voting, and thereby had publicised the Awards on behalf of the organisers, who had created little publicity for the event themselves!  No thanks was received for one’s participation.

Despite all of the above, we are proud that we made it to the Top 10 finalist stage in our category, and that we learnt from participation for the first time.  We trust that the organisers of the 2010 SA Blog Awards will accept this feedback and will improve the organisation and credibility of it, to ensure that they have quality participants in 2011!

The overall winner of the SA Blog Awards was a big surprise, being www.watkykjy.co.za, a provocative proudly-Afrikaans on-the-edge blog, that claims to receive 180000 ‘visits’ per month, and describes itself as “Die beste Afrikaanse blog en website in die heelal”!  In the past the Award has been won by www.2Oceansvibe.co.za every year that editor Seth Rotherham (Will Mellor) has entered the Awards.  Rotherham/Mellor did not even bother to attend, being in the Karoo over the weekend, and sent a message to the organisers that this was the last SA Blog Awards competition he had entered.   (Most non-Cape Town top 2 finalists per category did not attend, yet the writer of www.indieberries.blogspot.com travelled all the way from South Korea to pick up her two category wins).

The winners in the 24 categories, announced last night, are as follows (congratulations to them all):

Best Entertainment Blog:  www.2oceansvibe.co.za (ranks 3rd on Afrigator)

Best Media & Marketing Blog:  www.cherryflava.com

Best Post on a SA Blog: www.brainwavez.org/screen/film/features/2009/20091001001-01.html

Best Overseas Blog: www.pharside.co.uk

Best TV Radio Blog: www.ecr.co.za/kagiso/content/en/east-coast-radio/east-coast-radio-blogs-breakfast

Best Politics Blog: www.wonkie.com (ranks 10th on Afrigator)

Best Photographic Blog: www.guywithcamera.co.za (Andrew Brauteseth)

Best New Blog: www.simply-delicious.co.za

Best Food & Wine Blog: www.simply-delicious.co.za

Best Science and Technology Blog: www.shesthegeek.co.za

Best Music Blog: www.dontparty.co.za

Best Fashion Blog: www.kimgray.co.za

Best Design Blog: www.indieberries.blogspot.com

Best Podcast/Video Blog: www.zanews.co.za

Best Business Blog:  www.memeburn.com

Best Group Blog: www.rlabs.org

Best Sport Blog: www.paddlesweep.net

Best Green Blog:  www.sprig.co.za

Best Indigenous Language Blog: www.watkykjy.co.za (7th on Afrigator) 

Most Controversial Blog: www.2oceansvibe.co.za

Best Travel Blog: www.getaway.co.za/page/blog

Best Personal Blog: www.indieberries.blogspot.com

Best Parenting Blog: www.reluctantmom.wordpress.com

Best Twitter Blog: www.twitter.com/mandyjwatson

Best Company Blog: www.rlabs.org

The SA Blog Awards website states that “integrity and credibility of the SA Blog Awards is our highest priority”.  It also states that the organisers would look for a ‘balance between the public voting system and the judge’s choice of winners’, to allow a free and fair selection of winners.  Many participants of this year’s Awards will agree that this was not the case!  

POSTSCRIPT 27/9:  The response to this blogpost has been phenomenal, with more than 850 readers in the first 21 hours of publishing it, and an incredible number of Twitter Retweets, many containing compliments, throughout the day yesterday.  Twitter is normally very quiet on a Sunday, especially over a long weekend.   The link to this post was sent to the organising committee of JP Naude, Chris Rawlinson and Dave Duarte, with no response to date. 

If one googles ‘SA Blog Awards’, one can read many blogposts written in the past two months, criticising various aspects of the SA Blog Awards.

The list of judges per category, with many typing errors, was recently added to the SA Blog Awards website, it would appear.  It is funny to see Randall Abrams listed as a judge for the Most Controversial Blog category – did I not write above that we felt like Idol’s finalists??!!  The other judge for the category was listed as ‘Ivor Vector’, but this name does not exist on a Google search.  However, Ivo Vegtor says he was invited to be a judge, but decided not to.  Randall Abrams has no blog, nor has Graham Howe, one of two judges in the Food & Wine Blog.  As far as judging goes, read the Comments section to this blogpost about what happened to Chris, the writer of iMod, the top ranked blog on Afrigator.  The list of judges for all the categories:  http://www.sablogawards.com/Judge3.aspx

Chris von Ulmenstein: Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

17 replies on “SA Blog Awards 2010 have devalued SA blogging!”

  1. Aidan Cory says:

    Your bitterness and self-inflated ego has devalued it and making the deserving winners (which there are many of) feel guilty to an extent. If you were winning, would you be complaining? Doubt it.

  2. Angel says:

    Very well written.
    The way I see it, despite hoping every year that I may get an award- yes, I’m a sucker that way- they remain for me a popularity contest.
    Unless you have hundreds of readers, you’re not going to get anywhere in the awards process. No matter how good your blog is.

  3. Angel says:

    Aaaaand now that makes me sound like I think I’m the shit…
    Thats not it at all.
    But I still think its a popularity thing. To me its become a game of how many votes you can accumulate- not necessarily how good your blog actually is.
    And I still sound like I’m whining…
    😛

    I remain, as ever, a blogger not a writer.
    🙂

  4. Tara says:

    Great article. Congrats on saying what many others have been thinking. I would really like to know the criteria the judges used for deciding on the winners in the end. I think the criteria should be published up front. After last year’s blog awards, I wrote to the organisers and asked for this, but never even got a reply.
    It’s a great idea to have blog awards, but they do need to have integrity, transparency and credibility if they are going to survive.

  5. tuberider says:

    “””….. said that the controversy surrounding the SA Blog Awards had devalued blogging, instead of enhancing it!””””

    With respect to the above comment & to what is otherwise a well thought out post, to believe that the SA Blogawards have made one smidgen of a difference to the global or even local blogging community is to horribly over estimate its influence. Even if the entire awards process was fixed, in the greater scheme of things it matters little.

    I did not enter or vote and only very rarely read any of the blogs that were nominated in the top 10. Most people read & write blogs for fun so to get so worked-up about these awards is a little silly.

    From what I can see, the SA Blogawards are slowly moving in the right direction and given its small budget the organisers have done a fine job. So what if there is a little controversy? It can only help raise its profile.

    If you depend on an award for your living – find another job. If you depend on it for affirmation – get your friends to read your blog and congratulate you.

  6. mspr1nt says:

    Hi there,

    I’m part of one half of one of the winning blogs (in the sports category) and I just want to say that I really disagree with the whole point eight. If you look at who we were up against – Urban Ninja, you’ll see that he is way more popular than us. We’re a humble little blog and it’s still a shock that we actually won. We don’t have ‘hundreds of readers’ and we didn’t ‘whore ourselves out’ – instead, we posted one post in the final week about the awards and Tweeted about it a couple of times. We’ve had awesome support from our few loyal readers, our close friends and our families and that’s what really mattered. Even if we didn’t win, the support we have received has been overwhelming and humbling.

    I know there are a lot of people who are upset about some of the results but there really are some worthy winners in the mix. Just remember that every side has two stories and be careful not to sour the experience for those who have worked so hard to get here.

    I hope that makes sense I don’t come across as rude. I just thought that people should know not everyone who won spent time ‘whoring themselves out to their millions of readers’.

    PS. I know nobody really gives a damn about the sports category.

  7. 6000 says:

    …says “expert in everything” Dax Villanueva.

    So Dax reckons they devalued blogging? Is that perhaps because he didn’t get nominated? That in itself proves the value of the awards to me.

    All the bitterness has come from people who didn’t get nominated or from those who did, but didn’t get enough votes to get into the top two.

    And then everyone has this issue over only the popular blogs ever winning. Except that half the issue for everyone was that there were judges and therefore it wasn’t demcratic, the other half is that blogs with more readers are more likely to win from simply having more readers.

    Half the world is going on about how badly the awards were organised, with no-one actually willing to step up and organise them themselves.

    Yes – there were certainly elements which could have been done better, but until you’re willing to put the hard work in yourself, it’s a case of put up or shut up.

    *gasp* How’s that for controversial?

  8. mspr1nt says:

    🙂
    big up for that dude, and especially big up because you are one of the ones who really should be moaning…your popular website gets a make over did not crack the nod for top 2 posts still astounds me.

    But yeah, seriously. Stop moaning, chill the fuck out. Oooh, I said the f-word…is my post going to be blocked now?

  9. Anon says:

    Is there a need for a “blog awards”?

    as in….is there a need for a “Dentist of the Year” award?

    what’s the point other than to have an evening out back slapping and getting smashed?

  10. Leo says:

    Storm in a tea cup. I don’t have energy to respond to each silly point, but some considerations: Why does the main organiser have to be a blogger himself? You say you’ve never heard of the judges in your category. You don’t know Randall Abrahams? Then you’re a dumbass and don’t deserve to be shortlisted.

    Besides, this blog doesn’t stand up against the winners. So be a good loser and try to improve.

  11. As the proprietor of several blogs each of which is in the Alexa 100 for South Africa and two of which regularly make it into the top50 and top20 respectively, I believe an objective assessment would be a lot better in terms of nominations for the awards. The so-called SA Blog Awards seems to award recognition by a few elite insiders and has absolutely nothing to do with verifiable audience figures. It it did, I have not doubt that we would see a lot more of the Alexa 100 represented.

  12. Johno says:

    Not sure if you saw this – http://imod.co.za/index.php/2010/09/27/i-got-dupped-by-the-sa-blog-awards/

    Another big flaw in this years awards.

  13. Joey says:

    Well written article, the awards were a total joke, the only way to judge credibility and success is to count the number of people who read the blog, everything else is bs. praise the lord that dax, rossouw, foodie and jamiewhatever didn’t get anywhere near the gig. If there was ever an award for self important loser with bugger all followers/readers these losers would be wallowing in a pit together.

  14. Gavin says:

    Hey nice post, I noticed you received a lot of flak in the comments but really can anyone stand up and say the awards were done well? If it wasn’t corrupt then it was incompetent.

  15. Ramon Thomas says:

    This is an excellent debate. I’ve lost interest in the SA blogging community and no longer teach workshops. The most important thing to remember is that readers don’t know or don’t care whether a site is a blog or not. As long as they can find what they looking for, they’ll come back for more, or move on. We live in a world that is becoming more and more transient. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

  16. Thank you for your input to the blogging debate Ramon.

    I remember your name from a talk you gave at Bridge House some time ago.

    Chris

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