My condolences to all you normies who entered the America’s Next Great Pundit Contest put on by the Washington Post. I had my misgivings about the contest from the start. Being that I work in online media day in and day out I knew the reasoning behind the contest.
I knew what the Washington Post was hoping to get out of it and the upside was even bigger than I imagined it would be.
Online Contests Mean Increased Traffic (At Least That’s the Idea)
Any contest you see online will award a winner with some sort prize whether it be something tangible or simply notoriety, but the site conducting the contest is typically rewarded with much more – increased visibility and traffic. Ultimately, no matter how nicely they spin it, in the end they have to be getting something out of it to make it worth their time.
The Washington Post has put together a contest that I have to applaud. Many times sites will get a short term bump in their traffic numbers from contestants just before and after the contest as they eagerly check the site for updates. In the case of Washington Post there were about 4,800 contestants.
However, the Washington Post understands there’s a way to better capitalize on online contests. By making it partially interactive in choosing the contest winner from 10 finalists not only will they get a boost during the entry period, but they’ll also see a little more traffic during the voting period.
Not to mention they get a lot of free content from contestant entrants.
Normies Never had a Chance at Winning
I was skeptical when I first heard about the Washington Post Pundit contest on NPR. But I was excited after going on the site and reading more about it. The Washington Post positioned it as a contest where Joe Anybody was given the chance to speak their peace, that those on Main street had valid, valuable points of view that should be heard.
Though some critized the Washington Post for excluding those who had already written or contributed for a major publication, I thought it was genius. In this online world we’re starting to see the power of public opinion and that regular day people can provide insights that are extraordinary. (though a lot of insight is fairly shortsighted as well)
Still, in the back of my mind was nagging suspicion. It’s kind of like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy shows up to the Wizard’s joint and is told to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Well, once you’ve worked behind the curtain there’s no way to ignore what you know is going behind the scenes even though you can’t see it as it’s happening.
After reading the bios and posts of the 10 finalists it seems to me that entrant’s credentials was the biggest determining factor in who made the cut. Don’t get me wrong all the contestants seem intelligent and some of the posts were good. But normies never had a chance. Despite excluding published pundits high credentials still seemed to be qualifying factors.
Courtney Martin must have read the same Time magazine report on women in the workforce as I did. BSP has a post in the works that examines how this shift in society has affected violence against women. I agree with the comments.
Burton Richter is a Nobel winner so, yeah. I like the facts, I’m big on facts so thank you for this piece. While the whole ethanol boom has helped some of our nation’s farmers, it has also been a bust overall. Another example of business overriding science.
Kevin Huffman’s piece was a let down in that there’s a lot of important issues needing discussion and political jabbing helps drown out the conversation. He does get a few points for creativity.
Did the Washington Post Cave to Criticism?
Those who saw the online Q&A with Wa Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt a week before the end of the entry period probably remember he caught a lot of flack about not giving professional pundits an opportunity to enter. They questioned the quality level and qualification level of those the Washington Post was willing to feature in their paper and online.
The Washington Post certainly fooled them. They made sure the majority of the 10 finalists had accomplishments that answered the question of whether they could hang with the big media big leaguers. After all, they have a reputation to uphold.
Would I have done anything differently if I were the Washington Post? Probably not, at least not much.