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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I'll Never Be An Idol

Brace yourself. I'm feeling philosophical today.

I don't watch much tv, but I seem to glean enough just by catching the commercials and listening to the news. (Evidently, news people think game shows and reality tv are news.)

Shows like American Idol and Dancing With The Stars, among others, rate talent by popular vote and the show's judges. The scores are combined and they end up with an average.

In publishing too, we have small and big contests to rate book covers, excerpts, trailers, blogs, web sites, magazines, agents--you name it.

I made the mistake of entering one such contest a couple of years ago for best blog design. My goal was pure. I wanted to win free advertising with this company, and I felt I did indeed have a good blog design, but in hindsight I can see the means of getting there were less than noble.

You see most, if not all these contests rely on popular votes. The contest host is hoping to increase the web site's exposure by luring you in with your readers.

On a level playing field this is perfectly acceptable. There are so many competitors for visitors that you can easily miss a good site. Hosting a contest is an excellent way to get more eyes on your site.

But my real concern is not the purpose for a contest, but the process.

I can't begin to tell you how many contests I've seen where a winner is chosen by popular vote--NOT for talent, creativity or cleverness, but by how many friends you have.

Friends are wonderful and it's good to have people who will stand by you, but should you win by popular vote? Did you really win or are you merely well liked? How does this validate your work?

Today, even big publishers host contests whereby the author is 'judged' by his peers and whoever makes the cut are then judged by professionals in the industry.

I suppose that is one way to cut down on the work of reviewing so many proposals. And I think for the most part they do choose a worthy winner.

But I wonder. Did they miss other good choices solely because someone didn't have enough friends to push him through to the next round?

It's a law of averages, I suppose, with a healthy dose of luck.

There's even an old saying to confirm that: It's better to be lucky than good.

This is most certainly true and the smart money would stick with lucky. --But I'd still rather be good.

So ends this Socratic post.


Marianne Arkins said...

DD asked me the other day if I thought she could win American Idol. I didn't say, "Uh.. no, cuz you can't carry a tune in a bucket." -- I DID say that I had no idea, because the best singer isn't always the winner.

I agree with your post for the most part, but think there are enough benefits to BOTH parties, even in a popularity contest. How many of those friends of Miss Popular end up finding new (insert item here: website, book, blog, whatever) because they came over to vote for their buddy? And how many of the not so popular people benefited from that?

Think about it -- Clay Aiken didn't win American Idol, but he FAR outsold Rueben Studdard, who DID win that year. Jennifer Hudson was kicked off halfway through the show and now is crying all the way to the bank about it.

While it can be frustrating to the folks who don't have as many friends, they need to understand that they're in it (whatever "it" is) for the exposure and the more friends everyone else has, the more overall exposure everyone gets.

Win-win. I like those odds.

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: exposure
This is true. And big media outlets like American Idol do give just as much fuel to the runner ups as they do the winners. And with regards to AI, by the time they get to the final handful, I'm sure they're all talented in their own right.

But my regret stems with how hard contestants vie for votes. They have entire armies dedicated to this.

Case in point: I think a year or so ago they had some Texas football player win Dancing with the Stars. I didn't see him dance so I have no idea if he was any good, but hardly a week went by where the local media didn't encourage people to vote for the home town hero. I even saw billboards.

I've been in advertising a long time. I know how the game is played, which is why I yearn for the cream to rise to the top by virtue of their talent alone, rather than by a publicity campaign.

It's a purely philosophical point since such a thing would never happen in the real world.

Kaz Augustin said...

Wow, who are you and what have you done with Maria? LOL Good post and I agree. For that reason, because I know I'm wildly UNpopular ;), I tend not to enter competitions where the outcome relies on popular vote.

Maria Zannini said...

Ah...just because I don't normally voice the unpopular opinion doesn't mean I don't have them.

This is one reason I decided to enter the hook contest at Samhain. I knew the entries would be reviewed by professionals in the business and not by the popular vote. To me that seems the most logical way to make business decisions.

Heather B. Moore said...

Good questions to think about.

Maria Zannini said...

I seem to be all about questions lately. LOL!