Comedian Louis C.K. picked up the top honor, person of the year, from the Webby Awards on Tuesday, while social networking newcomers Pinterest, Spotify and Instagram were singled out for being Internet innovators.
Louis C.K. claimed the Webby for his groundbreaking, digital-only release of stand-up special “Louis C.K. -- Live at the Beacon Theater,” which he sold directly from his website for $5 each.
The release generated more than $1 million in two weeks and set a new precedent for publishing and distributing without restrictions, a model later followed by fellow comedians Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan. The annual Webby Awards, selected by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences which includes members such as Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, recognizes groundbreaking Internet work and innovation in Web culture. Icelandic singer Bjork was named artist of the year for her multimedia “app album,” “Biophilia,” while actress Juliette Lewis and comedian Graydon Sheppard were singled out for their original Youtube series “S..t Girls Say,” which became a viral phenomenon last December, generating 16.2 million views.
Facebook picked up the first ever special achievement for social change award, voted on by the public, for its role in the Arab Spring revolution last year, beating competition from Twitter, YouTube, Kiva and Change.org. Photo-sharing application Instagram, recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, was named Webby breakout of the year, while pinboard-sharing site Pinterest and social networking site Google+ picked up their first honors at the awards.
Satirical news organization The Onion bested Webby favorites Funny or Die and College Humor with five awards overall in a tight race between comedy outlets. Funny or Die co-founder Will Ferrell won an award for his impersonation of President George W. Bush reacting to Osama Bin Laden’s death, and the comedy site picked up another award for a slurred, festive rendition of “Drunk History Christmas with Ryan Gosling, Jim Carrey and Eva Mendes.”
There are more than 130 Webby Award categories in which two winners are selected by Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences members. People’s Voice awards winners are selected by online ballots. This year saw more than 1.5 million votes cast from over 200 countries.
The 16th annual Webby Awards will be handed out at a ceremony in New York hosted by actor-comedian Patton Oswalt on May 21, and will be live-streamed online. For a full list of winners, visit www.webbyawards.com.