Truthiness Challenge, Google Bombing Earn Colbert Top Webby Accolade

The winners of the 12th Annual Webby Awards were announced Tuesday. Taking home top honors is comedian Stephen Colbert as the Internet’s “Person of the Year.” Other big name honorees include Will.i.am for “Artist of the Year” and Michael Gondry, who won “Film & Video Person of the Year.”

Colbert received the award for his innovative use of the Internet to interact with fans of “The Colbert Report.” That includes Google bombing to make him the top search result for “greatest living American” to challenging the “truthiness” of Wikipedia, the organization said.

Adding to Colbert’s high-profile Web usage was his brief run earlier this year in the 2008 presidential campaign. His attempt to earn a spot on the ballots on the Democratic and Republican primaries in South Carolina brought more than 78 members per minute to his “One Million Strong for Stephen T. Colbert” Facebook group in its first week. Additionally, his supporters have raised more than US$250,000 for the education charity DonorsChoose.org.

Colbert declined to comment through his publicist about his big win.

A Niche Thing No More

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, presents the Webbys. Born during the Internet’s infancy when the Web had a much more kitschy and much less corporate appeal, the Webbys present two types of awards — The Webby Award and The People’s Voice Award — honoring excellence in more than 100 categories for Web sites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile.

“When we started, the Internet was a kind of dorky niche thing and that’s kind of changed. Now it’s a massively popular mainstream medium with more than a billion and a half people online,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards.

A panel of 550 members comprised of leading Web technology experts as well as members of the creative community select the winners. Nominees are judged based on a range of merits and attributions.

“Especially for the Web sites, the video and the ads, there are very distinct qualitative material the judges use. When you get into something like when you’re talking about special achievement that are honoring people who have made an impact online it becomes much more subjective,” Davies said.

“Obviously impact is very important, and [we are honoring] people who are using the Internet in innovative ways and also people that are showing by example the potential of what can be done online,” he added.

Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video made for the Barack Obama campaign was chosen in part because of the impact it had, Davies told TechNewsWorld.

“You’ll see that [Will.i.am] was somebody who was not a big participator or fan of politics in the past. But this year, for whatever reason, he was moved to do something about it,” he explained.

“It’s a great example of somebody … who has a great amount of artistic abilities and what they can do online and the kind of impact that can have. [It exemplifies] the kind of following and viewership you can get only just by having quality work,” Davies added.

Growing Impact

A Webby Award is a mark of distinction for many individuals and companies who receive the honor.

The organization received some 10,000 entries from 60 countries for the 2008 awards — far more than other awards such as the Oscars, Golden Globes and ESPYs combined, Davies noted.

Plus, more than a half a million people participated in the “People’s Voice Awards,” a singular achievement because to ensure the integrity of the voting process each voter must register on the Webby Awards site.

“I think there’s an amazing amount of awareness. The impact to winners is varied and prolific. On an individual basis, winning can really change your career,” Davies said. “Winning a Webby is a huge differentiator for your career. On a company level, the key is that [a Webby] brings a lot of traffic and can be an exposure to a new audience. [They] also have bragging rights and position in the marketplace.”

Colbert, Will.i.am and Gondry will receive their awards at the Webby Awards Celebration, held June 8-10 in New York. Acceptance speeches at the ceremonies will be limited to a scant five words.

Other award recipients include Wired.com for Best Copywriting; National Geographic for People’s Voice Winner for Best Home/Welcome Page; and Apple.com for People’s Voice Winner for Best Navigation/Structure.

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