IT World Canada’s Blogging Idol Contest Generates User Content

Toronto, Ontario – April 28, 2010 – Creating its own twist on the popular TV show, IT World Canada is in the midst of the third annual Blogging Idol competition (http://blogidol.ca). The contest, which runs March 22 to May 7, is designed to encourage Canadian technology professionals to share their experiences in using IT to enhance business value.

Some 23 contestants write on a weekly topic determined by ITW Canada editors, though bloggers can also post entries on other topics, provided they relate to the use and management of enterprise IT. Bloggers may post as often as they’d like, no longer than 1,000 words per post. During the first four weeks, the contest has produced some 100 posts and nearly as many comments. At the end of the contest, a panel of judges will choose the contestant whose posts offered the most relevant, valuable and entertaining insight into the use of IT. The winner gets a cash prize of $1,000, and three runners-up will receive retailers’ gift certificates worth around $100.

“We’re looking for creative ways to involve our readers and have more of our content come from them,” said IT World Canada Editor-in-chief Shane Schick. “Blogging Idol has done that, but what’s particularly exciting is that it has been a great exercise in how to work with our audience and turn them from passive readers into active contributors.”

Schick said he sees this active audience as the key to shaping IT World Canada into an even more vibrant, Web-centric company, and for that to happen, “we need other people in the company to understand what it takes to get readers to be engaged in the site.” To that end, before the two most recent competitions, Schick and ITW Canada’s IT team, Web developers, video coordinator and other staff met local contestants at a Toronto pub to go over how to use the blogging platform, review basic procedures and answer questions.

For ongoing assistance, the IT World Canada team has several support mechanisms in place. There is a weekly insiders’ newsletter for the contestants, produced by Project Coordinator Melissa Langley, that includes articles about the topic of the week and links to other bloggers who have commented on that subject. Schick writes a tip of the week, which recently included a video interview with a renowned Canadian journalist who shared advice on a range of blogging how-to’s. To help prospective bloggers who want to participate but didn’t get to the Q&A at the Toronto pub, a video on the Blogging Idol site shows them how to use the blogging platform. During the contest, Schick and some Computerworld Canada editors do some Blogging Idol-related tweets as a way to promote what the contestants are writing about and drive traffic.

The contest has evolved over the years. Originally the winner was chosen based on traffic generated. “Traffic can be generated in all kinds of ways; sometimes it’s the quality of the piece, but it can also be an SEO-friendly headline, or maybe the post was used in a newsletter or picked up elsewhere,” Schick said.

This year judges will select the winners with an eye toward quality, not quantity. The panel consists of ITW Canada VP/Editorial Director John Pickett, one of last year’s winners, and Sean Moffitt, who is a well-known personality in the IT blogging and marketing community.

During BI’s first year, contestants were restricted to blogging about one specific topic a week. The following two years, when bloggers could choose from among suggestions or choose their own enterprise theme, the number of submissions greatly expanded.

This year, rather than closing registration when the contest began, people can continue to sign on to blog during the competition. This gives more people a chance to participate — at least eight signed on after the official start date — and because there is no minimum number of posts required, someone with a smaller number of very high-quality submissions may win. While the first Blogging Idol had a two-month sign-up period before the contest began, the last two have had a two-week warm-up period. “This lets people test the waters without feeing the pressure of actually competing,” Schick said, “and if they have questions or there’s a bug in the system, we get feedback up front.”

When Blogging Idol began, the staff expected cutthroat competition amongst the bloggers, but participants have been very supportive of each other. “They offer constructive comments on each other’s posts, and they meet and develop friendships,” Schick said. “We’re all about community, and this has been a great vehicle for that.”