Now in their sixth year, the Shorty Awards are a rundown of who’s who on social media. Take a good look: These are people who have either played a big part in shaping the national conversation, or they’ve been the subject of it.
The big-name winners:
Actor: Aaron Paul
Athlete: Billie Jean King
Celebrity: Ian McKellen
Podcast: “This American Life”
Science: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Tumblr: Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls”
TV Show – “Scandal”
YouTubeStar – Kid Fury
Winners are chosen by the Shorty Awards Academy after being chosen based on:
- Quality and originality of content on all social media platforms
- Innovation in using social media in new ways
- Impact on the world
- Engagement with followers, fans, friends and critics
- Support received through passionate Shorty nominations
It’s an ephemeral set of criteria from Shorty Awards Web site. Having content go viral helps immensely, and so does the absence of pretense.
The Shorties are actually two sets of awards: The Shorties honor individuals while the Shorty Industry Awards reward brands and agencies. It’s a distinction that could become more and more blurred as companies like Maker Studios, Awesomeness TV and Big Frame get swallowed by corporate conglomerates. It gets increasingly difficult to tell whose success was engineered through a bigger network of YouTube channels or social media companies. For example, Maker Studios, recently purchased by Disney, was the company responsible for the Harlem Shake.
Nope, that internet dance craze didn’t just happen organically.
Tyler Oakley, a Big Frame star with wide social media recognition, was nominated for YouTubeStar, video blogger, blogger, activism, and shawty categories. Awesomeness TV, which is owned by DreamWorks Animation, recently scooped up Big Frame for $15 million.
Oakley said in an interview for the Frontline PBS documentary “Generation Like” that authenticity, or at least the appearance of authenticity and transparency, is hugely important.
“They can always tell if a YouTuber is pushing something,” Oakley said of his audience. “I try to keep it transparent and honest because they know it’s my job and that I have to pay bills. They get that, so it’s all good.
“The second when a brand is like, ‘We trust your judgment,’ I’m just like, ‘Oh my God, you’re the best thing ever’ and I’m 10 times more likely to give a real, good genuine integration,” Oakley told Frontline. The result isn’t so much transparent as seamless and seemingly effortless, and that’s the point.
Kid Fury, who won YouTubeStar but is also known for co-hosting the pop culture podcast “The Read” with his friend Crissle West, is a prime example. Fury and West heavily promote NatureBox and Hulu Plus on “The Read,” but not in a way that’s deceptive. They call their sponsors sponsors.
Douglas Rushkoff called it “a perfect mashup of culture and commerce.”
“You are your own media company, one hundred percent,” Oliver Luckett, founder of theAudience, told Frontline. “That’s every single person’s goal in this, the smart ones. It’s all very transparent. It’s very obvious.”