Thursday, April 02, 2009

Value & credibility of Online contests

Just imagine how does it feel to have a general election in following format
  • Polling is open from the date of nomination till date of declaration of results
  • Fetching voters to polling booth is responsibility of the candidate
  • Each candidate will be given his own polling booth where he can use special ballot sheets showing only his name (no obligation to show other candidates)
Luckily we don’t have such a ballot system. It’s obviously unfair to have rules like above, because when someone votes he/she needs to do justice for the vote by properly evaluating all nominated candidates and select a best one. Now let us consider the common characteristics found in most of the online contests and awards:

Online contests and awards-who really gains ?

Several contests and award programs keep happening online- for best blogs under different categories, for online recognition of some offline activities, to decide best photos/videos/other content. We get to know about these contests mainly due communications from people who’ve submitted their entry for the award and want our support by means of a vote.

I wonder what is the real worth of most of these online contests, is it worth participating in them or who gains something finally-the winners of prizes or the organizers of the contest?

Ideally, any contest or award program or talent recognition initiative should have following characteristics:
  • The contest should be well known and respected in the community
  • Ideally the organizers should identify prospective nominations themselves, without anyone having to say “See, here’s my entry, consider it for your award program”
  • If it is an open registration where anyone can enroll, then there has to be a rigid selection criteria to eliminate not so good entries and retain only best of the bunch for the final judgment
  • Judgment should be given by a panel of juries who are experts in the selected field. If user based voting is done all entries should get equal opportunity in front of a voter.
  • There has to be some physical/real reward (cash awards, momentum etc)
But, on the contrary most of the online contests/award programs will have following characteristics:
  • Most of them are hitherto unheard of. You come to know about them only when someone mails you asking your vote for their nomination
  • There won’t be much of selection criteria-almost every submitted entry gets nominated and is opened for voting (soon after its nomination)
  • Judgment is done based on number of votes received by online users and not by jury’s expert selection
  • The onus of driving traffic to contest site and make people vote for their entry lies with the participants, who take all the trouble of promoting the contest and asking all their contacts to vote for them- Ultimately it is not the best entry that wins-it’s the participant capable of driving maximum number of users towards the contest site and make them vote for his/her entry who wins.
  • Trouble taken by organizers of the contest is minimal. After some initial publicity participants take care of the rest. Host site gets lots of backlinks, huge publicity and other benefits as everyone tries to promote their nomination.
  • Rewards in these contest usually worth nothing. A little publicity on the event website and may be one special badge/banner which winner can put in his blog (thereby giving free publicity to the contest forever)
In specific, below are the reasons why I do not like most of these contests
Quantity wins, not quality
Why should I take every possible trouble to drive traffic towards event website and make people vote for me? If my entry is worth the prize it should win because of its quality-not because of quantity of users I managed mobilize. (also note that these contest sites never give a widget using which your readers can vote for you directly from your blog-they need you to promote their site with links and make people visit their site)

At least when all participants have equal opportunity (say promotion is done by organizers and those who vote do not have special interests in any one contestants) it could make some sense, else it is purely quantity winning over quality.

Should voters register at contest site?
Most of these sites need prospective voters to register at the site before voting. Why can’t I use open ID or email as an identity or some other measures to quickly vote and exit? Why should I spend several minutes, giving personal details to register there? It is obviously an attempt to increase their userbase.

Vote for me? Or vote for the best entry?
After someone gets his/her entry nominated, next task for the contestant will be to mail all his/her contacts saying “Here’s my entry, please vote for me”. You may be my friend but If I have to do justice for my vote, I need to evaluate all entries in that category and vote for the best one, which may or may not be yours. Ideally one should say “I’m participating in this contest, please check the entries and vote for the best one”. That never happens.

At the end of program, this is what each stakeholder does/gets
Non-winning participants end up giving free publicity and link juice to contest site, draw wrath of all his contacts for bugging them to vote for him/her, might get little traffic from the event site and eventually forgets about it and moves on

Winning candidate
Feel happy that all those trouble finally paid off, gets to collect his/her prize, provided it is worth something, Celebrate the victory, add a banner to his her blog giving even more publicity to the contest.

The contest organizer
Loads of back links, traffic, publicity and revenue (from ads and sponsors), Good user base of those who came to vote

Do you agree?


cool said...

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The contest is risk free and a lot of fun, so you do not have to worry about anything. So sit back and relax, It’ll be worth it.
Each week, you post a funny picture. Invite as many friends as possible to vote for your pictures, and tell them to leave comments to help qualify you. Than every Sunday, we at EL-Talent pick a winner. The weekly winner will qualify for the finals during the week of December 14th through the 20th. In addition, you’ll also receive a number of cool prizes! Even if you aren’t a Weekly Winner, you can still enter as many times as you want until you become one!

Click here to become a fan. The next step is getting your friends to join! Feel free to leave comments and ask questions.

Good luck and have a great day!