An Educational-Film Spoof And Other Webby Nominees

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By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, April 16, 2006

At one point back in the early '90s, newspaper sports editors made fun of the "ESPYs," ESPN's annual awards show for best female athlete, best play, best game and so forth. "A made-up event," they grumbled, and refused to cover it. Well, that's probably what music writers said for the first few years of the Grammys. Now, the ESPYs get good ratings and fewer folks are reading sports pages.

It was like that in the early days of the Webbys, the annual awards for the Web's best sites, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year at a big party in New York. The awards will be handed out at a May 9 show hosted by Rob Corddry from "The Daily Show." (Okay, maybe it's still the early days . . . guess Stewart cost too much.)

The Grammys have been accused of having too many awards -- slicing the industry too fine, with 108 categories, such as "Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal." Well, the Webbys are no slouch when it comes to categories. They have 71 categories for best Web sites, including "Activism," "Employment," "Insurance," "Religion and Spirituality" and "Weird." Yes, "Weird."

Topping the list for most nominations this year is the Web site for National Public Radio, with six nods. Showing the changing nature of the Web, the Webbys added categories this year for political and business blogs, podcasts and "Best Use of Video or Moving Image."

The Webbys are sponsored by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a group that counts David Bowie and "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening among its members. The Webby site is http://www.webbyawards.com/ , where you can see a list of all the nominees.

Web Watch flipped to the "Best Copy/Writing" category and found a couple of the usual suspects: The New Yorker and McSweeney's, the entertainingly literate if too-precious-by-half creation of Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."

The real eye-popper in this category, though, is http://www.bigfatinstitute.org/ , or BFI, from Troy Hitch's Cincinnati advertising agency, Big Fat Brain.

If you've ever sat through a school educational film -- and that means everyone -- you'll dig the black-and-white site that pitches you on his business in such a sly, humorous and subtle way that it could almost be considered subliminal.

BFI is a letter-perfect spoof of the edufilm genre (as was the instructional film in the middle of the film "Dodgeball," starring Hank Azaria), including Hitch in a white lab coat, explaining how BFI can help grow your brand with the same hilariously clinical and euphemistic tone as a 1950s sex-ed film about entering puberty, complete with sugary string music.

"Consumers may have started to look at your brand in a different ways, a way that may make you feel funny," Hitch deadpans in the game-show-host tone of the times. "In fact, many consumers will want to touch your brand, interact with it, get to know it."

In full disclosure, Washingtonpost.com has been nominated for a Webby, up against the sites of the Wall Street Journal, the U.K.'s Guardian, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Village Voice. If we win, you can bet Web Watch will be talking a little smack.

An Apology

Last week, we sent readers -- or tried -- to the Web site for the journal Nature to see some pretty groovy slow-motion video of "leaping liquids," an extraordinary scientific phenomenon that happens every day right under our noses.

When we found the site, the viddie played just fine. After we typed the link into the column, we double-checked. Still fine. Over the past week, however, I got an understandably bummed-out e-mail from a reader who said he had laboriously typed in the long link to see the video, only to find that Nature evidently had moved it "behind the wall," or decided to charge for it, sometime after we filed the column a week ago Friday. Which is Nature's right, even if it flips a little egg into Web Watch's eye.

So, a freshly challenged and feisty Web Watch wiped the egg off and found a couple of back doors to the video. I guess it's just my nature. I won't print the links, but if you type "leaping liquids" into a well-known search engine and look deep enough, you'll find them. And the viddie's still cool.

Listen to Frank Ahrens talk about blogs on Washington Post Radio (1500 AM) at 3:50 p.m. Wednesdays.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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