A Short Explanation of the Streamy Awards (And "New Media")

Sep 11, 2014

By the time this month's column is published, the Streamy Awards will already be finished, the winners having gone home and giddily placed their awards in a prominent location like a display shelf or a fireplace mantle.

Or maybe they do it begrudgingly. I don't know. Some people are like that.

If this was a different column, I would start talking about the Streamy Award winners without having to explain who those people are, what they do, and why they won. But this isn't that kind of column, because you're not that kind of audience. And I mean that in a very complimentary way. You're actually my favorite kind of audience.

Why? Because you're the kind that wants to learn more about the online video world, and I have the pleasure of being your teacher for this subject.

So instead of giving an overview of the winners, let's actually take a look at the Streamy Awards themselves. The Streamy Awards (henceforth known as the Streamys, as people in the online video and digital media industries affectionately dubbed the awards) are best explained by comparing them to the Oscars or the Emmys. Where the Oscars are an awards show for the movie stars and Hollywood hotshots, and the Emmys are for the TV celebrities and professionals, the Streamys are all for new media creators and companies.

I don't believe I've really defined the phrase new media in this column yet, but it's important you understand what this term generally means in digitally-inclined communities before we can dig deeper into the beast that is the Streamys.

While the New Media Institute has a very long article which tries to define the term (because it's actually harder to define than most people realize), participants in the new media realm consider it to be an over-arching phrase that involves other types of media. It includes digital media (vs. traditional, like printed newspapers), social media (like Facebook and Twitter), and transmedia (using multiple digital platforms to tell a story instead of placing it on only one platform). New media can also include other technologies like fiber optics and data organization, but let's stick with the definition which includes digital, social, and transmedia elements.

Now you know what I mean when I say the Streamys are awarded to new media faces and brands. We're not just talking about YouTube celebrities here; we're talking about the "Viner of the Year," a creator only using the short video platform Vine, and "Best Brand Campaign," awarded to the company who was most creative and successful in utilizing original online video and best practices in social media.

The awards aren't entirely devoid of traditional media references, either. For example, the category "Best Television Show" is awarded to your typical, broadcast-style series when the show's creators, cast, and producers use innovative methods like online video and social media to generate more interaction with fans. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has this down pat, and was consequently awarded the Streamy it deserved.

As much as I'm informing you about the Streamys here, I normally don't talk up awards shows. When I was in college, I used to watch the Oscars and Emmys on a yearly basis. My movie-crazed friend would throw a lavish party (for college students, at least) in her dorm room every year, and it was a joy to watch the guests arrive in dazzling dresses and tuxedos, and listen to the (usually) clever jokes the hosts used to jab fellow industry workers. Now, I just tend to think the Oscars and Emmys are nothing but overblown extravaganzas which cater to the egos and pockets of people who didn't need any more of either.

But the Streamys have given me a little more faith in humanity. They've only been around for about four years, but they dare to stand up and say, "Hey, look, the people you see on your regular TV and movie screens every day aren't the only ones doing something cool, unique, and inspiring out there." That's why Michelle Phan and Tyler Oakley and a few others won Icon awards this year. That's why the Streamys ended with what was essentially a dance party during STARSHIP's finale performance - trust me, you don't see that happening at the Oscars and Emmys every year.

Now, I just pray these Streamy winners keep their egos in check to keep those inspiring initiatives going.