The Webbys Are Money-Makin’, Celeb-Lovin’

The Webby Award winners were announced Tuesday — with a healthy serving of celebrity names represented in the awards, which are given out in a whopping135 categories.


Jimmy Fallon was Person of the Year for his gung-ho Twittering and cheerful assault on the barriers between network TV and the web, with moves such as having Diggnation hosts Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht on his late night NBC talk show.

Sarah Silverman was Best Actress for her viral videos “I’m F—ing Matt Damon” and “The Great Schlepp,” in which she encouraged Jewish youth to get their grandparents in Florida to vote for Barack Obama.

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor was Artist of the Year for “harnessing the power of the Internet to share his music and passions.” Reznor provoked the music industry by releasing his 2008 album “The Slip” for free download on the band’s website and creating a tour video available via BitTorrent. He also criticized Apple recently for turning down a NIN iPhone app.

Film and Video Person of the Year was "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, for his animated web franchise “MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.”

Twitter was the Webby Breakout of the Year.

The awards, given out by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences,  will be presented on June 5 in a ceremony in New York City, hosted by "Saturday Night Live’s" Seth Myers.

Critics of the awards were quick — as always — to accuse the awards of commercialism and celebrity pandering, and for generally being the opposite of the supposedly democratic, ground-up spirit of the web. Many bloggers noted the profileration of categories year by year — and the fact that to even be considered for a nomination, you have to fork over a couple of hundred bucks.

Owen Thomas (who is soon be leaving Gawker), let it fly, calling the Webbys a “goofy charade” that has been “milked for profit”: "Now that “mainstream entertainers like Jimmy Fallon and Seth McFarlane are sweeping this year’s awards, the parodic circle is complete.”

The Washington Post sarcastically called the Webbys “nothing if not inclusive,” echoing Jack Shafer’s crack last year: “I’ve heard of mail-order diploma mills that are more exclusive."

The Webbys are a fat target, indeed, especially the eyebrow-raising practice of charging to be considered for a nomination.

But when it comes to being a business venture with a questionable relation to actual achievement and creative (as opposed to commercial) success, what awards show can throw the first stone?


The awards industry is big business now, and if you follow the money it all gets a little dizzying, not to say nauseating. Beginning with the sheeplike drive to buy For Your Consideration ads to announce an Oscar campaign, the big studios can spend millions to secure major-category nominations for a single movie. Same for the Emmys.

The whiff of lucre and celebrity-worship around the Webbys may be distasteful to purists, but it’s just one more sign that the web — even given its riotous, anti-authority, even at times democratic roots — is part of the corporate entertainment world.

And yet. For the moment at least, there is a bastion of something like integrity in the web/entertainment/awards nexus, and that is the Streamy Awards, created by the newly minted International Academy of Web Television.


The first ceremony was held in March in Los Angeles with virtually no mainstream media coverage — and it turned out to be a charming alternative to awards shows in general (as I wrote at the time.) Seriously, this little ceremony honoring the people who labor obscurely to make TV on the web made you remember that rewarding people for hard work that pays off — for excellence — is a pretty basic human instinct.


Unfortunately, that may only be possible when not just the moneymaking but also the celebrity factor is kept under tight control.


I counted four, maybe five big celebs at the Streamys — and that was just enough to add a little glamour without tipping it over into a booty-kissing, fame-whoring atmosphere.