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Webby Awards get down to business

The annual awards show is adding a sister program to recognize Web sites focused on the bottom line.

After six years of designating the best of the Web, the Webby Awards is spinning off a new awards show to recognize the Web's best business sites.

Long known for its fast-paced presentation and colorful nominees, the Webby Awards this week will start accepting entries for The Webby Business Awards.

The new program will have the comparatively dry mission of highlighting "best practices for business sites and how the Web is serving business and making it more efficient, driving more leads and increasing ROI (return on investment)," Maya Draisin, executive director of Webby Awards sponsor The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, said in an interview.

Business categories will include automotive, creative services, financial services, food and beverage, health care and pharmaceuticals, information technology, marketing and communications, media and entertainment, professional services, retail, technical services, telecommunications, and travel and tourism. A "Good Deeds" award will be included, with a cash grant to nonprofits.

Other awards will honor particular business accomplishments. These categories include branding and design, cost-cutting/operational efficiency, customer relationship management/customer loyalty and retention, integration of online/offline marketing, product optimization/personalization, and sales lead generation/increased sales.

The academy's new focus on the business of the Web is somewhat at odds with the awards show's rhetoric since the dot-com boom went bust.

In an interview last year, for example, Webby Awards director and founder Tiffany Shlain said the demise of the commercial Web bubble would help the medium regain its core values.

"So much has been written about the Web boom's focus on moneymaking--and its failure," Shlain said. "Yet commerce represents only a minor capability in comparison to the Web's power to connect people. Now that the hype is gone, the focus returns to the Internet and the Web's core strengths--as communications tools and information sources."

Entrants to the Webby Business Awards will face steeper fees than their noncommercial counterparts.

For the regular Webby Awards, entries received before Oct. 11 cost $85 to $100 per site. After Oct. 11, the entry fee climbs to between $95 and $150 per site.

Business sites, by contrast, will pay between $150 and $200 per site, depending on whether or not they qualify as "good deeds" or nonprofit, if they enter before Nov. 29. After that date, the fee goes up to between $200 and $250 per site.

Draisin denied that the business spinoff was a strategy for the organization to raise more money.

"We are not officially a nonprofit, but we operate like one," said Draisin. "The academy is akin to the Motion Picture Association or the television academy. "Our goal is to forward the industry."