New Statesman’s New Media awards

Last night, for reasons I’m still unsure of, I attended the [tag]New Statesman[/tag]‘s New Media [tag]awards[/tag] at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

I am now trying to remember the last awards ceremony I went to, because at it I decided I would never go to one again. Ah yes, it was the PPA Awards in some Park Lane hotel about five years ago. However time is a great healer and I had forgotten what these events are like when I received an invite – god knows why – to the New Statesman awards.

I reasoned that it was New Media so it would be more my kind of people, plus I might run into a few people I hadn’t seen for a while. Plus I might meet someone interesting. And the thing is that it was a perfectly nice awards. Well organised, friendly, amusing and so on.

But I still found myself nonetheless wishing I hadn’t gone to the trouble of travelling down from Oxford to go to it when I could simply have checked out the results online. The reason I didn’t like it, I mused on the way back home, is because of the over-the-top networking and the dreadful egotism of people that live in London.

I am not the most sociable person in the world but I have learnt to deal with being in a big room of people chatting away to various people. The problem is that at media events everyone is in such a frenzy to talk to whoever they perceive as being powerful that the whole thing quickly becomes artificial and almost aggressive. Unless you make yourself out as being important, anyone you talk to will not even be half-listening and will instead be scanning the room for someone they recognise from the TV or from a photo byline.

The only people worse that media people in this respect are politicians, who immediately sum up the value of someone to them within seconds of talking to them. If you are a journalist, the politician will make an immediate 50/50 decision. Either you are useful or a danger to them, at which point they turn on the charm, or you are not, in which case they will be talking to someone else within approximately 10 seconds.

Hear! hear?

I am also at a disadvantage in that my hearing is a bit off. It’s fine in 95 percent of circumstances but in a room with a high ambient noise, my brain has trouble differentiating voices close to me. So even if I do end up in conversation with someone in a busy room, I am constantly struggling to hear what they say. Oh, and I can never remember people’s names, which doesn’t help either.
And so you largely have a choice: you can either behave like everyone else and swagger around thinking you are incredibly important and talented, butt into conversations and then play a quick game of “who’s more important?” while engaging in small talk, or you can fuck off and vow not to go to an awards ceremony again.

I briefly saw Georgina Henry who is editor of the Guardian‘s Comment is Free and decided I had to grab her and explain the way out of the problems that Comment is Free is having at the moment with the number of posters. It’s very simple: they need to put in nested comments and a comment rating system like Slashdot has and all her problems are over. But by the time I remembered her name, she was gone into the mix of networking loons. There were enough knowledgeable people there to tell her the same, so hopefully it came up in conversation somewhere.

Bill and Dave
Journalist Bill Thompson was about but since he had been the MC, he was swamped with people. Dave Green was there – the eternal networker – so I had another of my Dave Green conversations with him that we’ve had over the years which never seem to comprise of much more than sharing a few anecdotes and in-jokes, always receiving more than giving. I was going to try to see if I could talk to the new editor of the New Statesman’s online edition to see if it would be worth pitching any stories in future but of course everyone else had already had that idea and I wasn’t feeling aggressive enough.

The outgoing online editor Kathryn Corrick looked very nice but it was effectively her leaving do so I didn’t want to hassle her because I’ve never met her nor had any previous interaction with her. And then somehow I had annoyed the blokes from MySociety earlier on because I couldn’t hear what they were saying. They had also won two awards so they were also temporarily more important than others and so were swamped.

And then, once you’ve stood there for more than five minutes, wondering who on earth you can have a normal conversation with, and realise that there isn’t anyone, well then it’s time to go.

The Awards

All that aside, the Awards are interesting in that you can instantly see what they have come up with because all the winners are websites.

David Milliband MP was the guest star and he came across as a nice bloke (for a politician) who honestly does see the value of the Net and what it can do. He joked about the rude replies he’d gone on his blog about an idea of his. “Bat-shit mad” was a good phrase from one of them. He talked about how new media “enables new forms of democracy and enablement” and that how new media was also challenging old media. New media, he said, was open, meritocratic, egalitarian and linked up and the challenge was now for everyone to catch up wth these values.

Now, he may have had a good script writer but I got a sense that this young politician had really grasped the incredible possibilities that the Net provides, so I shall be watching him more closely.

Anyway, there were eight categories and here they are with the winners and links to their website in each case:


Commission for Social Care Inspection


mySociety: Pledge Bank


mySociety: WritetoThem


Sonic Postcards


Derek Wyatt



BBC Back Stage


Love Lewisham

If you want to know more about each site and/or review all the shortlisted and longlisted websites, go to the New Statesman‘s site here.

  1. We’ve all been there, Kieren – the important thing is not to let it get you down! Events like these always remind me of when I first arrived at university. Pushy freshers everywhere, all desperate to be important somehow. Sad really.

  2. Kieren,

    Working at these events is even worse than attending them. The punters can have a few drinks and leave when they want to. We techies are usually there until the wee hours, derigging all the gear and loading the trucks. No beer either!

  3. It was good to meet you and put a face to the name. I’m not a Londoner either; us outsiders should stick together. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think there’s a third way, which I try and follow. Just chat to whoever – old friends you haven’t seen, new people who look lost – about whatever and not worry about importance, prestige, or anything. You can tell from that I’m clearly not cut out as a politician or media whore. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And whaddya mean, temporarily? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. The problem I find is that as a freelancer, the people I know tend not to be connected to one another. So I know this bloke here in this circle. And that bloke over there in that circle…

    I also don’t like speed-talking, like speed-dating for networkers. I can have a really interesting conversation with most people – there’s always some common ground – but it requires five or ten minutes of comfortable chatting. The bam-bam-bam of meaningless chat is dreadful.

    And I still find people pretending to listen to you while trying to see if someone they consider more important is available really rude. Oh well.

    Good to meet you though. Hopefully we shall meet again soon in a calmer environment. And bravo on the awards – well deserved.


  5. Okay, at my awards ceremony – soon to be announced – the techies get free beer and everyone leaving is press-ganged into moving one bit of kit to a van before they are allowed to reclaim their coat and/or bag.

    We can call it a “socially aware event” or somesuch pseudo-nonsense name. Just pay a celeb to ostentatiously put away a bit of kit and then persuade everyone that this is some new exciting idea that it is all the rage so they can talk about endlessly next week, and the job’s done.


  6. Actually, Matthew, I knew I should have told you about something.

    Check this link out asap:

    It’s a form for writing a workshop at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens, you should really check it out.

    In fact, I’ll email you to make sure you see it.


  7. Just remembered a scene from Will Self’s ‘Sweet Smell of Psychosis’, as the main character enters a trendy London bar:

    “Then the human hubbub assailed Richard. Advertising people, television people, media-associated subsidiary professionals, jingle music composers, voiceover actors, public relations people, design consultants, gallery girls, commercial artists and a fair littering of moneyed or titled deadbeats. These were the denizens of the Sealink. They all seemed to smoke, they all seemed to drink, they all held themselves in exaggerated postures, heads jerking around, on the lookout for better social prospects lying behind the heads รขโ‚ฌโ€ or the bodies รขโ‚ฌโ€ of their interlocutors.

    So pervasive in the bar of the Sealink was this tendency to scan all parts of the room, other than the faces of your immediate neighbours, that it resulted in a kind of collective perturbation, like an agitated, atomised Mexican wave. Richard absorbed this wriggle of regard, felt it wash over him. He too began to scan, check out who was there, who he knew, who was interesting, who had something to offer.”

  8. So why didn’t you come and rescue me from the people swamping me? At times like that I need a voice of reason – even your rather distorted reality field will do…

    more seriously, sorry to have missed you there – nobody showed me a guest list so i didn’t know who to look for, and by the time I’d finished the show I was rather engaged in finding wine and veggie food [nearly stormed the kitchens with Peter Tatchell, but they brought out the sundried tomato/mozzarella bites just in time ๐Ÿ™‚ ]


  9. If you needed a voice of reason, you’re lucky I didn’t bother you…

    You see now, when not there, I honestly can’t think of a reason why I didn’t stick my head in and say hello. But such is the human condition. I really should have spoken to Peter Tatchell but I couldn’t spot him – I’ve always wanted to hear about him being attacked by Mugabe’s bodyguards.

    As for food: I guessed – correctly as it turned out – that since the invitation didn’t have any mention of food and then said canapes would be available after the awards, that there was going to be a food issue. So I bought some pasta which I stuffed into my mouth in Hyde Park before turning up.

    I’m sure there will be plenty of other opportunities to meet up soon. Actually – let me also point you to the IGF’s website. I think this will be worth covering for the BBC – – before and after.

    If you send me an email or give me a bell, I’ll also give you some interesting extra insider info that may be of use.


  10. Kieren, have you ever tried to talk to the people who aren’t swaggering around trying to be important? Anyone who isn’t organising the event, MCing, winning awards or instantly recognisable in New Media circles because reading your post it looks like you’re criticising the game that you were playing.

  11. Blimey this was from a long time ago, presumably the New Statesman has just announced a new shortlist for this year.

    I’m not sure what you mean Anna. I’m a very friendly, relaxed sort of person. If I’d have seen a fellow lost soul, I’d have wandered over.

    I’m not sure the people I named would be seen as the glitterati – maybe they would – but they were people I wouldn’t have minded talking to. The problem is the strange pushiness that appears at events like this. I find it a bit much to be honest.

    I’d like to set up a corner where only those that aren’t interested in networking are allowed. I bet you’d get all the most interesting people over there.


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