In order to answer the question posed we need to recognise that blogging falls under the arts. Just like authors, painters, sculptors, photographers, film-makers and musicians, bloggers do not compete directly with each other. In fact it can be argued that , if anything, competition stifles creativity which is the very essence of art.
Bloggers, like other artists, don’t have or need opponents. The beauty of artistic pursuits is freedom of expression without competition. Of course artists, of any genre, are open to criticism just like anyone else and that is healthy.
On the other hand the athlete’s freedom of expression is constrained by his adversary’s efforts to defeat him. An athlete/sportsman, cannot attain any kind of success or status without an opponent to conquer (try playing tennis alone) but an artist can.
Of course we all know about the Oscars, the Grammy’s and the Booker prize. But that is different because the film-makers, musicians and authors are all driven to create great art and not by a desire to defeat another. The fact that they may be acclaimed by their peers is a deserved by-product of their talent and dedication. They do not enter a competition.
Why, then, would genuine ‘bloggers’ want to compromise their freedom as artists by creating competitions in a world where competition is not natural. Yet there seems to be so many blog competitions springing up that logic would suggest there must be a desire amongst bloggers to joust with each other; or is there really?
Let’s assume a competition is organised to write an article on a specific topic of between 1000 and 2000 words. There are 350 entries averaging 1500 words; 525,000 words in all. That’s a monster job for the judges to pick a winner out of that lot. So what would you expect them to do? I know what I would do if I were the organiser. I would post all the entries, at closing date, and tell all the contestants to drive as much traffic to my site as they possibly could to comment on their amazing entries. So the contestant who has a huge family and a database of 1000′s sends out a bulk email saying,
“I’ve entered a blog competition, go to this link and write a short comment saying how good my post. If you don’t I won’t buy you an Easter egg this year!”
The blogger, who only has one objective (to win), solicits 500 comments from people who never read the article, either because they are related, it isn’t very good or they don’t want to miss out on the Easter egg.
Another blogger who has written a brilliant article only has 3 friends and 5 other email addresses. Poor chap. Then the organiser’s amazing piece of software finds the blogger’s post with the 500 comments and they are announced as the winner. Easy isn’t it. And the organiser has added a couple of thousand emails to his database. The only downside for the winner is that he is in for a lot of Easter eggs!!
For every 1000 entrants, assuming there are 3 prize winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd) there are 997 losers who have no idea how good their entry was or even if it was read.
Blog contests are a great way to drive traffic to an organisers blog and contest organisers have the opportunity to take advantage by using the contestants to fuel their blogs, if they are so inclined, giving little or nothing back to the entrants. A great way, I read, to build traffic on your blog is to create a blog competition. You can even get advice on how to run one successfully from other bloggers.
And what about all the losers and their self-esteem? How many will feel that their entries weren’t good enough and be consigned to the trash bin? Will they follow the lead of the many losers of all the beauty pageants around the world who fill the coffers of plastic surgeons because they think they aren’t beautiful enough?
And how about the web-sites that actually tell you ‘how to win a blog competition’, not how to write a great article. Somehow that feels like ‘how to pass school exams by looking over your classmates shoulder’.
I applaud genuine charitable competitions which raise awareness about social or humanitarian issues. But how do we determine when competitions are healthy, and when they are not important or even dangerous, as some doctors claim? That’s each individual’s call.
I spent my youth in fierce competition as a sportsman, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so personally they don’t attract me. I believe that if you are committed to your chosen art with a natural desire to excel and be the best you can at what you do, by contributing value to others, you will be a winner in the end. You will have no need to seek out competitions to try and raise your profile.
And, with no losers. that is really winning.