Changes To The American Wine Blog Awards

With the first American Wine Blog Awards complete, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the way they came off, with the attention we were able to point toward wine blogging and with the amazing amount of participation that they elicited. They were a success. But they could be better.

I’ve had a chance to think about the AWBA and believe the following changes should be made. Any input from bloggers, voters or readers would be appreciated.


As you’ll recall, we had anyone and everyone offer up nominations in various categories. Over 600 comments were left nominating various blogs. I think this worked well. It offered the best opportunity to have all blogs put in the running. I don’t think this will change.


A panel of winemakers, wine marketers and wine writers were gracious enough to go through all the nominees and determine the finalists. I had them choose and rank their top four blogs in each category and from that we determined the four finalists in each category. Again, I think this worked well. I don’t think we’ll be changing this process.

This was accomplished by a vote open to anyone who chose to vote. Although the result of this process turned out to be far less of a "popularity contest" than I expected it to be, I’ve been thinking that I want to do what is possible to make sure it does not turn into that kind of competition; that the winners always represent top quality blogs. That worked out this time perfectly. However, the change I’m considering putting in place would be to created a weighted combination of popular voting and judging by a panel. I’ve not determined what the weight might be. Perhaps 60% of the judgment from from the popular vote and 40% from a panel of judges. However, this sort of process is what I am leaning toward.

A number of folks have suggested changing the categories, dropping some, or adding others. This is certainly under consideration. I don’t want there to be more than seven categories. However, I would love any suggestions on what those categories might be.

What’s an Award without a prize. Actually, that was what the American Wine Blog Awards were this year. I felt bad about not having significant prizes. I worked hard on procuring something that would have really honored the winners or at least the "Best Overall Blog". That will change next year. I’m working diligently now to procure prizes for the Award Winners that will have real meaning.

Again if anyone has any suggestions for improving the American Wine Blog Awards, I’d love to hear them and begin a dialogue on just this question.

Posted In: Wine Blog Awards


8 Responses

  1. eljefe - March 1, 2007

    Having the graphic on your blog has some pretty real meaning (I know I want one!) A trophy on the shelf is nice, but the graphic is what people will see. And having something of real monetary value would increase the likelihood of voting fraud.
    I still think a Best New Blog category is something to consider. There are new blogs starting every year that may not make the 52 post cut, but show promise.
    Also, maybe a clarification or division of the Graphics category? The blog that won has great graphic design. There are also blogs that have great photography (those were the ones I nominated for graphics) – maybe a photo category as well?
    (I guess I don’t see category creep as a problem, but I’m not running this…:)
    thanks! – j

  2. tom - March 1, 2007

    Thanks for the comments. With regard to prizes, if I was able to obtain the kind I’m thinking about I’d probably keep them under wraps until the winners were determined. I do get your point too about the graphics AND “best new blog”. Both great suggestions.

  3. Dr. Debs - March 1, 2007

    No good deed goes unpunished, I guess, judging from your later post about what’s in your email. I, for one, thought the processes associated with the Awards were extremely fair and balanced, and that all the finalists deserved to win, so I was eager to see how it all resolved itself.
    My lingering concern–and it may be an unresolvable one–is that 4/7 of the winning blogs were associated with companies or businesses (and I recognize that the Best Winery Blog will always fall into that category). I think that there needs to be some way to recognize the non-professional tradition of blogs and bloggers and some way to give kudos to someone who basically spends their free time doing this, as opposed to someone who does it as part of a business operation. The former blogs may always be a little rougher around the edges, less slick, and less frequently posted to than the latter, but this does not make them less worthy of distinction. When you went through each category it was difficult to distinguish style from substance sometimes, and to not just vote for the slickest presentation.
    I would hate to see the awards become a way to give corporations, companies, and professional media outlets an even greater voice in wine. That these groups are now interested in blogs shows the power of a medium created (as far as I can work out the history) by ordinary people who wanted to write for a public audience. It would be great if there was some way to make sure that this doesn’t get lost.
    Also, will winners be ineligible for consideration the following year? Not ineligible forever, just for one year to give others a chance? Just thinking again of the awesome list of worthy finalists. Some of those votes must have been awfully close!
    Thanks again for doing this Tom, and being so gracious about asking for feedback

  4. Rob McIntosh - March 2, 2007

    I like the idea of the awards, but I want to take a slight issue with the name and scope of the awards.
    There was at least one finalist, Jamie Goode’s, that was not “American” in the least. If you will continue to call these the American awards, then does it not make sense to restrict your candidates to your country? If you want to then include others, maybe a “best international blog” category might be worth including?
    I will admit that it does grate with me somewhat that UK and other sites are lumped in to an “American” awards simply because the blogs are in English.
    I hope it doesn’t seem mean-spirited, just trying to give an outside perspective.

  5. Mark Fisher - March 2, 2007

    Tom: I think your proposal to change the methodology used in determining the winners is a wise one and would combat potential manipulation. Like you, I don’t think that occurred this year, and every winner was fully deserving. But given a full year to devise ways to game the system, some folks might be tempted.
    While I understand Dr. Debs’ concerns, I’d caution against making rules changes that end up being exclusionary. Perhaps some tweaking of the categories can address some of the issues.
    From one of those alleged “professional media outlet” bloggers who sure doesn’t feel like one,
    Mark Fisher

  6. Dr. Debs - March 2, 2007

    Hi, Mark. As I said, I’m not sure that the issue of “professional” vs. “non-professional” bloggers can be really dealt with and certainly I don’t want the awards to exclude anyone on either side. And, of course, as your post suggests there is a problem with the terminology itself since even if you are a professional journalist, it doesn’t mean you know how to manipulate computer templates!
    I just think it’s something to be aware of, as some blogs are going to be infused with resources (time, money, tech support) and others are not. This may be an insurmountable problem, but I like your idea of some category tweaking to help to level the playing field. I was just wanting to voice my concern that the blogosphere continues to be a place where everyone–pros and non-pros alike–has room to be recognized and appreciated.

  7. Lisa Roskam - March 2, 2007

    As a Canadian living in France I wanted to echo/reinforce Rob’s points. In these days of border-free internet communication it does seem a little silly to talk about “American” Wine Blogs. Do these blogs really only talk about American wines? I have a blog that is hosted by an American hosting company and is written mostly in English. Is my blog Canadian, French, or American?
    In my opinion English-speaking or anglophone awards (the name “Wine Blog Awards” does already strongly indicate their language) might be more appropriate, since in the end the majority of wine blogs truly are international.

  8. Joe - March 4, 2007

    I think manipulation is inevitable, so the suggestion of some sort of panel is a must, and the only debate is how to do that – your suggestions seem reasonable.
    Dr. Debs’ comment re: commercial and non-commercial sites makes sense in theory, but how do we distinguish – so many bloggers have AdSense and so on, how do we define a not-for-profit site? I suspect a “Best New Blog” Category could address Dr. Debs’ comments and get the lesser sites more exposure.
    Lisa’s comment makes sense – just call it the Wine Blog Awards.

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