These are the first-ever Howard Owens Media Blog Awards.
Why should I give awards? Why not? Besides, I just wanted to highlight at the end of 2006 some of the best work of the newspaper industry online. If you don’t like my awards, give your own. If you do, let me know and I’ll link to your post. If enough bloggers give these awards, maybe we’ll arrive at some sort of consensus awards.
I’m making up my own categories and my own rules. I’m ignoring circulation categories and generally only naming one winner per category. Because of my conflict of interest, sites associated with my present employer as well as Bakersfield.com and VenturaCountyStar.com are not eligible.
Best Overall News Site — WashingtonPost.com. While the WaPo’s home page, like pretty much all newspaper.com sites, is over cluttered with links, the Post is doing a lot of t hings right online — lots of multimedia, blogs, chats, trackbacks, tagging and good story-level navigation, not to mention the generally high quality of the Post’s journalism. Close second is KnoxNews.com. I love KnoxNews video and the great site design, but the site still lacks the level of interactivity on WaPo.com.
Best Site Design — TCPalm.com. It’s pretty much impossible to find a newspaper site that doesn’t try to shove too much on its home page, so we’ll overlook that flaw on the TCPalm site and recognize it’s general excellence at providing a lot of information at the top of the page in a clean, well organized manner. The site is both attractive and functional. It’s easy to navigate and highlights news, what’s inside and the local communities well.
Best Video — IndyStar.com. The site uses the standard Gannett video player page, but more than any Gannett site I’ve seen yet, they do a lot of local video. They find a wide range of interesting topics to cover and keep personalities well in focus. I especially appreciate their emphasis on nightlife and sports.
Best Vlog or Web Newscast — TimesCast from Roanoke.com. Roanoke serves up a nice recap of the news in a well-done, professional manner that makes no conscience attempt to be like a television broadcast. It’s fun and full of personality. Roanoke’s player is also well conceived, with the ability to share related links in a side pane.
Best Blogs — Chron.com. The Houston Chronicle offers up a full slate of staff-written blogs, and also invites outsiders into its blog realm. The quality of the blogs is mostly pretty good, and readers can leave comments.
Best User Participation — Spotted. The web is a visual medium. Spotted makes it easy for users to share photos and view photos. It’s a natural fit with the visual nature of the web and the desire of content contributors to see themselves in the content. Spotted is an application of Morris Digital Works and runs on several sites, and in some cases under different brand names. (Disclosure: I do have a business relationship with Spotted/Morris.)
Best Calendar Site — Vita.MN. Rumor has it that much of the credit for Vita.MN goes to whiz-kid Matt Thompson (co-creator of Epic2014). This site, not even a month old, is smart and hip and filled with events. It’s also on its way to being a contender for best user-participation site and best entertainment site.
Best Classified Site — WashingtonPost.com/Jobs. This award can go to either a general classified site, or a traditional vertical. In this case, I’m selecting WaPo’s job site because not only is it functionally pure, it has a range of high quality content that make it exceptionally useful for job seekers and those seeking career advice. It shows what a newspaper vertical can be and should be.
Best Vertical Site — Hartford Courant Pets. If newspapers are going to succeed at creating new revenue streams, they need to break away from traditional ways of viewing their customers and concentrate on people’s interest and advertiser needs. The pets category is a natural fit. Hartford has done a great job and leveraging existing advertising against great content and user participation.
Best Contest — CourierPress.com with Karaoke Idol. What a great idea. Here’s a contest that plays off one of the hottest shows on television, people’s natural desire to show of their talent (or lack of it), user-generated content and bring forward the names and faces of people in the local community. Smash hit with a bullet.
Please argue in support your favorite newspaper.com sites and efforts in the comments.
UPDATE: Lucas Grindley doesn’t like TimesCast much.