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Which Online Video Award Is Most Important?

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Much of Kontonis's time right now is devoted to growing the IAWTV's outreach activities and its role in the online video community.

"We have chapters in different cities that put on events. We do a really big series of events with YouTube in a partnership with their YouTube partner program, so we do monthly events with them. We do screenings. We work with a lot of the conferences and do program panels and educational events and networking opportunities, so it’s really become a true industry organization," Kontonis notes.

The Vimeo Awards

While the Vimeo Awards honor the same types of online videos as the others, the feel to this show is entirely different. Winning videos feel more creative, left-of-center, or original. They have an independent spirit, even when created by major agencies. It's the difference between Vimeo.com and YouTube.com.

"The Vimeo Festival and Awards was created back in 2010. Our express purpose at that point in time to celebrate works that had premiered online. There were very few places that accepted works that had premiered online in a kind of festival context," says festival director Jeremy Boxer. "What we wanted to do was to give a home for those orphan films that weren’t allowed to be in film festivals or other such events because they had premiered online."

Not just an awards show, Vimeo's awards are tied to a two-day festival that brings together new and experienced video creators in a learning and social setting at the company's New York City IAC Building home. The festival and awards are held every 18 months. For the second festival in 2012, Vimeo held the awards portion first. 

Daniels at the Vimeo Awards

Daniels, winner of the 2012 Vimeo Award for music

"We took it to another level this year by starting with our award show and then letting the winners be celebrated throughout the two-day event. I had a number of the winners come up to me afterwards and say that it really changed their focus and the way that they looked at events like festivals," notes Boxer. "One of the winners said instead of sitting in a corner at an after party with an award in my hand and not knowing who to speak to, everyone was coming to talk to me. They felt like a winner and they felt like they were getting the most out of the experience. And many of them met people that have gone on to change their lives."

The Telly Awards

The Telly Awards differ from the others in several ways. There's no Telly Awards ceremony, for example. It would be difficult to pull off, since there are thousands of winners each year. 

The Tellies, which honor film, TV, commercials, and online video, receive between 11,000 and 12,000 entries each year. Of those, up to 10 percent in each category could win the highest honor, the silver award. Up to 30 percent of entrants can take the next highest honor, the bronze award. 

All that judging is done by past silver award winners. They view entries online in a judging process that runs from October to April. 

The Telly Awards are the oldest award on this list, having started in 1978. They added online video awards in 2005. The Tellies are run by Recognition Media, which also owns the Webby Awards. The two awards have nothing to do with each over, even though both honor online video. They share an administrative department, but that's all. 

"Most competitions have one winner per category and that restricts them," says executive director Linda Day. "What we feel sets us apart is that we don’t have to choose a winner per category, so if we don’t get quality work we don’t have to choose a winner for that category. But, if we get lots of quality work in a particular category, we can go ahead and honor those. We feel it sets us apart from other competitions because it gives the small guy and the large guy equal opportunity to win an award."

Which Award Is the Winner?

With so many awards honoring the same material, some have to come off as more prestigious or desirable than others. That might be true, but creators believe that having several award shows is a positive step for the industry.

"The medium is still relatively young, and it's still being formed, and people are still trying to figure it out. So these award shows I feel not only give us the opportunity to celebrate what we're doing as a community, but also to meet and learn what other people are up to in the industry," says Patrick Starzan, vice president of marketing for Funny or Die. "And then it's always great to be acknowledged for the work that you're doing."

While he's in favor of all the awards, Starzan thinks the Webby Awards lead the pack. 

"I think for us the ones that really come to stand out are the Webby Awards. I think they have probably the strongest brand out there that most people can identify, too," says Starzan.

Before he became the senior vice president of content for Blip, Steve Woolf was a creator and producer of Epic Fu, an online culture series that won multiple Webby and Streamy awards. He knows firsthand that winning awards helps elevate the profile of a show and the people behind it, even if it doesn’t lead directly to greater revenue. 

"The Vimeo Awards are interesting because their committee of judges is so interesting," says Woolf. "They have some really accomplished filmmakers and creators there, and I think that community is so specific. It's really about filmmaking and craft, especially on the high-end production type things, but not necessarily around shows per se. It's really a judgment around how good is your craft around the visual parts of your story."

Shira Lazar, host of daily series "What's Trending," is excited to see what the next Streamy Awards show looks like. 

"Now we’re seeing the Streamies back and collaborating with Dick Clark, which is putting it on a totally new scale," says Lazar. "The fact that Dick Clark that we all know for huge award shows is getting in this space shows where we’re headed. The next phase in award show programming is recognizing web video content."

Lazar notes that the Emmy Awards recently added a few online video categories and that her show is up for an Emmy this year. Whatever the awards are, though, she sees them as important measures of the industry as a whole.

"People are spending time and money on creating great work, and that is really innovating the space right now and pushing the boundaries," notes Lazar. "It’s work that should be recognized by our fellow professionals and then also by the community at large. I think it’s really important. It creates a credibility and a standard for where we’re at so every year when you see the awards, the nominees, the winners, you are seeing 'Okay, we’ve raised the bar again.'"

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