Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Philippine Web Awards: To recognize the best Philippine websites on the Internet

Last week, I read Marc's blog post regarding the Philippine Web Awards (PWA). I was part of the first batch and can still recall the fun we had at the Hard Rock Cafe. When it was then free to join, there was a requirement that website nominees should upload the "nominated" logo and this didn't sink in well with some high traffic sites and decided not to join instead. With the entry fee and text voting, I guess the concept of an award-giving body is becoming more confusing to some segments of the Internet community.

The PWA is growing and constantly learning. My special cheers goes to Noemi Lardizabal Dado for winning the best blog and to EYP for best portal in the competition's 2006 edition.

Here's the interview feature that I made about Heinz Bulos, one of the original head organizers of the PWA. He was the editor then of the now-gone Web Philippines Magazine. (i miss that mag)

This is one of the stories featured in the Philippine Internet Review: 10 Years of Internet History that list all the winners of the Philippine Web Awards from 1998 to 2003.

Heinz Bulos
Philippine Web Awards
Website: http://www.philippinewebawards.com/
Mission: To recognize the best Philippine websites on the Internet.

The Philippine Web Awards is the premiere award giving competition recognizing the best Filipino websites on the Internet.

Janette Toral (JT): Please give a background about yourself and your Internet life.

Heinz Bulos (HB): I have a parallel career in finance, having worked in SGV and BPI. But I started using the Internet in 1996 when I first wrote for PC World Philippines, later penning its Web Watch column where I reviewed the first few Filipino Web sites then. Then PC World included an insert, which I edited, about Web site reviews, taken from The Web magazine of the US. A year later, WSCPC spun off The Web Philippines, with me as editor. I served in that capacity from 1997 to 2000, and resumed in 2002, renaming and reformating the magazine into a business and technology publication as Enterprise magazine later that year.

I was also WSCPC's Online Business Manager from 2000 to 2002, launching and managing the operations of our IT portal, ITnetcentral (http://www.itnetcentral.com/), and our publication sites. In total, I've been using the Internet for close to eight years. And given the nature of my work, I'm online almost everyday for almost the entire work day. The Internet, particularly The Web and e-mail, are an integral part of my professional and personal life.

JT: Can you give us a bit of history on how the Philippine Web Awards started?

HB: The Philippine Web Awards (PWA) started in 1998 as a project of The Web Philippines magazine (now Enterprise magazine). It was pattered after the Webby Awards of the US (Webbys). The Web magazine in the US--published by IDG (International Data Group), of which WSCPC (WS Computer Publishing Corporation, now Media G8Way Corporation) is the Philippine licensee--launched the Webbys in 1997.

As editor of The Web Philippines, I thought it was a good idea to extend the mission of the magazine--which is partly to recognize the growing number of Filipino Web sites--to another format for a wider audience. And the idea caught on.

JT: What is your role in the Philippine Web Awards?

HB: During the first two years, I was actively involved in practically all aspects-conceptualizing the awards guidelines, inviting judges, overseeing the judging process, promoting the awards, even writing the script of the awards night program!

Recently, I've taken a more consultative role, as each area of organizing an awards program has been delegated to specific committees. There are different people handling the judging process, the updating of the Web site, the promotions, the event management, etc. I do not have a direct hand or operating responsibility in the entire process but am always around for consultation. I still do help in promoting the awards in tri-media.

JT: Would you refer to the Philippine Web Awards as the FAMAS for the Internet set?

HB: Well, that's how we billed it when we launched it in 1997, since it's a quick way of getting people to understand what it's all about. While we no longer promote it as the FAMAS for the Internet set, it still boils down to a industry competition which awards the most outstanding Filipino Web sites of the year.

JT: How did the Philippine Web Awards mature/change year-after-year? What were the significant changes/milestones?

HB: The first few years were naturally a learning experience for us, given the ad hoc approach we took. It was a way like an Internet startup--bootstrapping and multitasking. We started in a small venue (Hard Rock Café in Glorietta, Makati) and moving up to bigger ones (Shangri-La, Meralco Theater, New World) later.

Every year, we have fine-tuned the judging process, making sure we cover loopholes. Definitely, the set of judges we've invited have increasingly become highly regarded, given their background and reputation in the web development community. We've had more and more judges who are well-known internationally. So there have been a lot less, if not no, complaints about their credentials.

We've been working with different web development companies for our Web site almost every year, and we've certainly improved in that regard. Their multimedia talents continue to wow the crowd during the awards night with their animated clips.

We've also done a better job in the People's Choice Awards segment, and last year we introduced SMS voting as a way of expanding further the audience of the PWA.

The awards night themselves have become much better-organized and continue to be entertaining. Some of the country's top bands and artists have performed at the PWA.

We changed the name from the Philippine Webby Awards to the Philippine Web Awards after seeking the advice of IDG. But they do recognize and encourage our efforts.

Now that we've formed a separate Events group, we'll be expanding the PWA franchise to cover more areas and groups. We'll also be introducing ancillary activities such as seminars. We're also looking into specific segments in the ICT industry that we can spin off as separate awards.

JT: People tend to say that awards like this are all hype. Do you agree with that?

HB: In one sense, it is hype in that it puts the spotlight on web developers. It's the closest thing to being a celebrity.

But there is substance to it, as it helps them in terms of exposure and promotions, which may lead to new business and career opportunities.

It also serves as a venue for promoting best practices in web design, content, and development.

JT: Why do sponsors support the Philippine Web Awards?

HB: Primarily because they believe in the concept. It also has that coolness factor which they might want to associate with. But more than that, they want to be associated with the promise of the Internet and New Media. They know these web developers are at the cutting edge of New Media and they want to support this effort to recognize them.

JT: Is the awards going to be institutionalized (or is it already)? Or will it just keep on moving for as long as there are sponsors?

HB: It's not institutionalized in the sense that there's a separate foundation or academy running it, ala the Academy Awards. But while the actual operations reside with us, it has the participation and support of the web community, whose members are perennial screeners and judges. In the end, it's the web community, along with some experts from other industries that decide the winners. It's peer competition if you look at it that way.

And it's practically a widely-recognized industry-supported awards program, which has the same credibility and support as awards programs of other industries. Press releases, news articles, brochures, annual reports, executive speeches, and other promotional materials of past winners--from the freelance web designer to the Top 100 companies--all mention their achievements at the PWA.

Winners of the Philippine Web Awards: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998.

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