Magazine Awards Revamped, Again

ASME addresses unhappiness with new categories

Last year, the American Society of Magazine Editors caused a kerfuffle in editorial circles when it changed how it determines its prestigious general excellence awards. From then on, ASME said, honors would be based on magazine content rather than circulation size.

The old way was straightforward, but arbitrary, resulting in face-offs between titles like W and Backpacker. But the new way wasn’t perfect, either. One of the new categories, Finance, Technology and Lifestyle Magazines, lumped GQ with Bloomberg Markets and Scientific American.

“This was the one category everybody scratched their heads about,” said Sid Holt, chief executive of ASME.

So for 2012, ASME renamed the Special-Interest Magazines category Active and Special-Interest Magazines to include niche magazines like Bloomberg Markets and Backpacker. Magazines like GQ, Wired, and Popular Mechanics found a home in General-Interest.

The five General Excellence categories—down from six—also were renamed to better reflect the way readers look at magazines. Fashion, Service and Lifestyle Magazines became Women’s Magazines, for example. (Although whether Thought-Leader is more familiar than its old name, Literary Journal and Opinion, is debatable.)

ASME also extensively revised its digital National Magazine Awards, or "Ellies," named for the elephantine statuettes given to winners. The changes are meant to reflect the ever-changing nature of digital magazine content. Content produced for tablets and other mobile devices are now eligible in most categories, and new awards were created for Website and Personal Service, for example.

Not all ruffled feathers are likely to be soothed when all is said and done. (Big egos are involved, after all.) Vogue still shares a category with Better Homes and Gardens in Lifestyle Magazines, while National Geographic still faces off against People in General Interest.