The Evolution of the Channel Awards

The Evolution of the Channel Awards

How did they become what they are today and why do they still matter?


Question: What do the Channel Awards and the Channel Tunnel have in common?

Answer: They were both unveiled in 1994.

Back in 1994, the average price of a house in the UK was £68,000 (oh for a time machine), but interest rates were a whopping 6.13 per cent. Ouch.

It was also the year that Mandela became the first black President of South Africa, and Forrest Gump first appeared in cinemas, causing hell for anyone called Jenny or Dan.

How have the channel awards evolved into the Oscars that we all know and love today?

Celebrating 25 years of an event is no mean feat in this tough economic environment, and CRN is rightly proud of this milestone.

In the early years, small audiences of just a few hundred attended the Awards, and the event took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel before eventually moving to its permanent home in Battersea.

The first few years at Battersea saw first a corner of the giant marquee curtained off for the event, then a third of the room, then half, until it filled the entire structure, which it continues to do so to this day.

Entering the awards was fairly different in the early days, there was still a judging panel (and a LOT of paper) involved, but entries that were shortlisted then went forward to an industry-wide voting process.

It became clear over the years that this system was always going to be weighted to the larger companies that could galvanise their customers and partners into voting for them, and to be honest, the quality of the entries was pretty weak in some categories, and it was difficult to police who was voting and whether it was a fair system.

Of course, that brought a host of complaints from the industry and accusations that the awards were skewed towards bigger companies and sponsors. Of course, they were not, but the voting system results had to be respected.

It was with this in mind in 2008 that the awards received their first major makeover since the launch - with the voting scrapped and a brand-new two-tier judging system put into place. Entries were also submitted online for the first time. 

The aim was to make the process as simple, transparent and independent as possible, with the emphasis on quality of entry, rather than how many votes could be garnered before the event.

Criteria for every single award was rewritten to make writing an entry as simple as possible, with as many hints and tips crammed in as was allowed.

Not everyone was happy, but one thing CRN had learned over the years was that it is virtually impossible to please everyone all of the time.

Those competing for the ‘big three' awards (now expanded to ‘big five' in 2018) were asked to come in on the second voting day and present their case to the judges in person, creating a really competitive environment and upping the stakes for all involved.

Despite initial concerns, the audience for the awards just kept growing, one year, CRN had to turn people away from buying tables at the event because it was impossible to fit any more people into the room. There were people crammed onto the Mezzanine level for the first time ever. It was certainly a squeeze that year.

From then on, numbers have been more controlled to allow those attending more space and room to stand around the bar area. It really is a first come, first served situation when it comes to table sales.

One thing everyone knows about the IT industry and technology is that it never stands still. And it is the same for the Channel Awards.

Every year the categories are tweaked, updated and some dropped altogether because they no longer fit with the needs of the channel. Feedback on all categories is welcome and is always taken into account.

Again, this may not be ideal for some companies, but the aim is the keep the awards as inclusive and modern as possible, to encourage a wide sample of entries from both large and small companies. 

The fact of the matter is that not everybody will be happy all of the time, but every category, with a little imagination in some cases, is relevant to a large number of channel firms.

Some years will see the same company win the same award that they won the previous year. To actually pull that off is an amazing achievement and it shows real excellence in the particular field they have entered. Since the voting was scrapped it certainly doesn't happen as frequently as it used to.

So why do the awards still mean something to the industry?

The Channel Awards really are one of the few independent awards out there in the market. Winning one really is recognised as a beacon of success.

Every entry has been through a stringent and thoroughly independent two-tier judging process and are judged purely on the quality of that particular entry.  The companies that have made the effort with their entries are rewarded for that effort, and it is why the winners are not always the ones that are expected to win.

It is definitely not easy to win a Channel Award, and it is impossible to buy one either. No amount of sponsorship or attempted bribery will persuade the judges. They too have a reputation to uphold and they are keen for the winners to be chosen strictly on merit.

Those actually picking up the trophies on the night can know that the award they are holding actually carries weight, and it is something they have earned fair and square.

The awards actually mean something to the industry as well, and winners' badges are proudly displayed on websites and in emails for the rest of the year. And so they should be.

If you are awarded a Judges' Commended Award, it is also something to be proud of. It means your entry stood out enough to the judges to be worthy of recognition. Those awards are also not handed out like sweets and are only awarded if the whole panel agrees unanimously.

Please do not delay entering the awards or avoid them altogether. Never think you don't stand a chance because you are too small. Size is not everything. 

If you can demonstrate success and results in your entry, it really does not matter what area of the market you operate in. But remember to use facts, figures and testimonials in your entries, it makes a lot of difference.  

The deadline for entries is Friday 13 July. To see a list of categories and criteria, visit the dedicated awards site, or the editorial Awards Hub for full details and a mix of light-hearted and slightly more serious Channel Awards-related articles.

The very best of luck to you all.

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