The American Society of Magazine Editors is gearing up for submissions to its 2010 National Magazine Awards. For the first time ever, the awards will include a separate ceremony for digital media, which last year included four categories. This year, they have been expanded into 12 different awards, including blogging and podcasting.
This afternoon at The Princeton Club, members of ASME gathered to hear Will Dana of Rolling Stone, Peggy Northrop of Reader’s Digest, and John Rasmus of <a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/National-Geographic-Adventure-profile.html"National Geographic Adventure give their opinions to moderator Cindi Leive of Glamour on what it takes to win both the digital and traditional awards, arguably the most prestigious in the industry. All three of the panelists have both judged and won previous magazine awards.
Asked what would surprise most people about the judging process, Northrop, who in her editor-in-chief position helped win Reader’s Digest its first National Magazine Award in General Excellence, replied, “How tough women are on women’s magazines.” She went on to say that even though most audiences no longer consider these magazines frivolous, there is an assumption in the industry that women’s titles won’t win awards.
Rasmus countered that women’s magazines might suffer because, while the judges are looking for the fresh and innovative, a lot of women’s magazines have experienced, savvy women at the helm, and they may not necessarily be new to the game. Dana’s take was quite different. He said that it was simplicity and thoroughness that won awards, not flashy or clever pieces that made you wonder “what are they covering up with their cleverness?” (Sorry Esquire, your new augmented reality issue might fall in this category.)
Northrop also mentioned a previous year, when a piece up for an award was cut from the final five contestants because of an “egregious” typo, proving that copy editors still have their place in the market, even as they may be the first ones getting cut from publications.
Also discussed was the role of audience in judging these awards. All three panelists uniformly agreed that readers don’t care about who wins awards. But Rasmus added that if a magazine is good enough to win, readers will notice the quality. The categories for the awards also offer “good guidelines for great content,” Dana told the crowd. So while Rolling Stone may not go looking for awards, editors there use the basic outline of what award judges look for when they create content.
Lucy Danzinger from Self magazine spoke for several moments about the new categories in digital media. “Digital media is its own can of worms,” she mentioned. “Because what’s live while judging is not always live later, and what’s cool now might not be cool in nine months. So you always have this sense that you’re not quite in sync with today’s world.”
Before we left the lunch, we got a little peek into life at Time Inc. We were sitting next to an assistant editor from Real Simple, and leaned over to ask if The Princeton Club measured up to the office holiday parties at her publication. “Time Inc. doesn’t really do holiday parties anymore,” she sighed.