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Category Inflation at the Webbys

The nominations for the 13th Annual Webby Awards are in, and browsing the list, I’m a little surprised at how much it’s grown. I remember the novelty of the first ceremony at Bimbo’s back in 1997, with its quirky five-word speeches and humble 15 categories.

I was curious to see the growth trend, so I tallied up the total number of categories on their official site. In the last five years, we’ve seen a 330% increase in new categories to a total of 129 today. In the chart below you can see the gradual rise during the dot-com era and brief reduction after the bust, only to swell along with the Web 2.0 movement. In 2005, with the introduction of the new Mobile, Advertising, and Film award types, the number of categories more than doubled to 63 and continued to expand every year since.

With so many categories, you’d think that their business model hinged on getting as many entries as possible… Which, of course, it does. Submitting an entry for Webby consideration costs $275 for the Website, Mobile, and Advertising categories, while the Film categories costs $195.

All of this reminds me of Cool Site of the Day, a former web mainstay that’s long since drifted into irrelevance. Once they started taking cash for consideration, the award became less meaningful and the picks were less interesting because of it.

At what point does the Webbys meet the same fate as CSOTD, where the only people who care about the awards are the nominees themselves?