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Blogging in the spotlight; Best Australian Blog competition launches

By Tim Lince in Media News on

The second annual competition to find the best Australian blog across a variety of categories opened up for entries today, and its an award that can help transform a blog into a full-blown business according to last year’s winner Nikki Parkinson.

“Since winning the award 10 months ago I've completely rejigged my business and am now a full-time blogger. The win boosted Styling You's profile, and the reputation of Australian blogging in general. More and more brands are keen to become involved with bloggers - to collaborate with them as independent publishers,” she told Influencing.

“One of the biggest projects I've collaborated on since the win has been with Big W as part of their autumn-winter fashion season launch - this has all come about because of my blog, its profile, its readership and its influence. I've also gained a freelance blogging contract working for Justb Australia, which is part of the Kidspot group.”

Raising the profile of blogging across Australia was the original aim for the competition when it was first conceived last year by the Sydney Writers’ Centre, according to event coordinator Rose Powell.

“We launched the competition to celebrate the great writing and unique community engagement potential of blogging, and because of the outstanding writing we saw in the Australian blogosphere. Blogging is an increasingly recognised and respected medium and we wanted to put a megaphone to the Australian blogosphere,” she told Influencing.

Although the competition was a success for the Milsons Point-based company, there were many lessons learnt from the first foray, with the added parenting and best newcomer categories the biggest change from last year.

“The Australian blogosphere has flourished in the last 12 months. There are lots of new blogs, and the existing blogs just keep getting better and better, so we're really looking forward to exploring that range through the competition entrants this year. We have a special award for 'best new blog' to celebrate the newcomers to the blogosphere, and I have no doubt it'll be a tough competition for that title,” she said.

“Also, we created the parenting category for a couple of reasons - parenting blogs are the best networked and most targeted by advertisers and PR companies, and deserve its own category. In the post-2011 discussions, I kept hearing the same sentiments from both personal bloggers who didn't have kids, and parenting bloggers. The other reason was that I learned last year how hard it was to shortlist the finalists for the joint [lifestyle / personal] category last year, and we wanted to recognise more outstanding bloggers by separating the categories.”

Predictions & Advice

Current holder Parkinson (pictured) was keen to offer words of wisdom to this year’s entrants, saying bloggers should “make sure that you use the time between now and when the judging starts to have your site looking as best it can and to concentrate on putting out the best content possible”.

“There are so many brilliant Australian bloggers this year, so I'm really glad I'm not judging!" she added.

Powell said the open nature of blogging needs to be refined for success in the competition and of any chance to snatch the top prize.

“My advice would be to develop your own voice, and have fun with expressing yourself. It's a very popular competition and there are a lot of entrants, so the finalists have to stand out from the other entrants, and the best way to do that is find and own your voice. As a blogger, you're writer, editor and publisher of your blog, so you can really do whatever you want. If you look at the winners last year, all of them had powerful and distinct blogging voices,” she explained.

“Beyond voice, focus on developing your readership and being part of the blogging community. Read other blogs, comment and get involved in conversations on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.”

The competition is judged on some firm metrics - 70% writing, 20% presentation and 10% engagement - with the bias on quality prose no surprise for a company with a variety of language courses also on offer.

“We recognise that the scoring system does make it harder for image-driven blogs to win, but quantity and quality of writing are very different. Any blog with great captions, whether they're witty, emotive or humorous has a good chance at winning. As the Sydney Writers' Centre, we're well placed to celebrate and showcase great written content, and so that's what we're focusing on,” Powell said on any potential concerns.

PR, journalism & the blogosphere

The competition has also had another avenue of response, with PRs now looking to the Sydney Writers’ Centre as a place for advice on Australian bloggers.

“I get a lot of calls from PR companies who ask who the best bloggers are for their new brand or product, so following the competition is a great way to get an understanding of what kind of blogs are out there,” Powell explained.

“Additionally, we'd love to hear from PR companies about being involved in the Best Australian Blogs Competition with specific ideas about how they can add to the competition experience for everyone involved. Because the competition is launched now, most of  the opportunities for PR companies to be involved are  promoting the competition to their followers and the brands they represent. If the companies they represent have blogs, they should enter them, if they don't they should start one!”

And Powell reckons the competition will get tougher to judge in future years as bloggers and the blogosphere rise continues in Australia, but will blogging ever rival journalism in terms of influence and quality?

“There is exceptional quality writing in both journalism and blogging, and there’s also a wide range of both. As far as influence goes, we don't have many blogs (yet) that have the kind of readership that mainstream media outlets do. But blogging has the influence might of combined editorial and word of mouth, so blogging can be very powerful because of the personal nature of blogs,” she speculated.

“Blogs are usually much more intimate, honest, and less structured. Blog can tackle topics that traditional media doesn't. For example, the winner of the Personal/Lifestyle category last year, Lori Dwyer of RRSAHM writes about suicide, mental health and grief. These are difficult topics for anyone, and suicide isn't discussed in detail in the mainstream media for excellent reasons. But Lori's voice is a powerful one, and thousands of people are encouraged by her words every week.”

“Blogging offers different benefits than journalism, and many people are both journalists and bloggers to make use of both - there is exceptional writing in both spaces.”

-

Thanks to Rose Powell and Nikki Parkinson.

To find out more, or to enter, the Best Australian Blogs 2012 competition, visit the website.

If you have any news leads, press releases or would like to be featured on the site, email tim@mediaconnect.com.au.

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