Making magazine awards more user-friendly

Given I’ve already linked to Tony Hirst twice this week I thought I’d make it a hat-trick. Last month Tony wrote two blog posts which I thought were particularly instructive for magazine publishers organising blog awards.

In the first post Tony complained after seeing Computer Weekly’s shortlist:

“Why, oh why, don’t publishers of blog award nomination lists see them as potentially useful collections on a particular subject that can be put to work for the benefit of that community?

“… There are umpteen categories – each category has it’s own web page – and umpteen nominations per award. To my mind, lists of nominations for an award are lists of items on a related topic. Where the items relate to blogs, presumably with an RSS feed associated with each, the lists should be published as an OPML file, so you can at-a-click subscribe to all the blogs on a list in a reader such as Google Reader, or via a dashboard such as netvibes. Where there are multiple awards, I’d provide an OPML file for each award, and a meta-bundle that collects nominations for all the awards together in a single OPML file, though with each category in its own nested outline element.”

I’d suggest something even more simple: an aggregator widget pulling together the RSS feeds for each category, or a new Twitter account, or a Google Reader bundle.

In a second post the following day Tony finds a further way to extract value from the list: use Google Custom Search to create a custom search engine limited to those sites you have shortlisted as award-worthy. His post explains exactly how to do that.

Tony’s approach demonstrates the difference between story-centred and data-centred approaches to journalism. Computer Weekly are approaching the awards as a story (largely because of limitations of platform and skills – see comments), with the ultimate ending ‘Blog publisher wins award’. Tony, however, is looking at the resources being gathered along the way: a list of blogs, each of which has an RSS feed, and each of which will be useful to readers and journalists. Both are valid, but ignoring either is to miss something valuable in your journalism.

2 thoughts on “Making magazine awards more user-friendly

  1. Bryan Glick

    Hi Paul,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. As you’ll have seen from Tony’s second post, we approached him after his initial post on the Computer Weekly blog awards and he kindly demonstrated how to answer his and your questions. We are well aware of the opportunities that the blog awards shortlists present and we certainly look on it as more than just a story with an ending – our challenge is the technology platform we use and the skills we have available. We’re very aware of data journalism and are one of a number of titles at RBI looking into this – we’re hosting a hacks and hackers day later this month to highlight and examine this further.

    I would love to say we are able to deliver these sort of services today but admit we’re not quite there yet – but that is not an indication of the way we approach our journalism, merely of the resource limitations under which we operate. We’ll get there…

    Bryan Glick
    Editor in chief
    Computer Weekly

  2. Paul Bradshaw

    Thanks Bryan – I summed up Computer Weekly’s approach rather unfairly and should have mentioned the resource issue. I’ll be at the Hacks/Hackers hackday next Monday – hope to say hello.


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