A Plea to Current and Future Worldcons, re: Announcing the Hugo Nominations

Dear Chairs and Committee members of Loncon 3 and all future Worldcons:

Could you please, please, please and for the love of all that is good and sweet in this world, stop announcing Hugo nominations on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter? Seriously, it’s absolutely idiotic really not a good idea.

Here’s why, from the point of view of someone who did marketing professionally and also worked professionally in journalism, and who is also an author and fan who wants to see the Hugo Awards get the media recognition they deserve (i.e., me):

Saturdays are a dead zone for publicity. News organizations are on skeleton crews. Blogs update sparsely if at all. No one reads newspapers, news sites, or watches cable news on Saturday because they’re sleeping in, are outdoors, or planning their Saturday night. Anything that happens on a Saturday is generally forgotten by Monday morning, when everyone goes back to work.

There is a reason why governments and corporations release all their bad news on Friday at 5pm — because they don’t want people to know about it. The only reason they don’t release it on Saturday is that even PR people are home on Saturday. Saturday is where news goes to die. Saturday is where you go when you want no one to know what you’re up to.

Mind you, that’s any Saturday. But of all the Saturdays in all of the calendar year, the very worst possible Saturday to announce anything is the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Because it’s the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, that’s why — the Saturday sandwiched between two major religious holidays, which means the “weekend” that week starts on Thursday and Sunday’s news cycle is swamped by the most important Christian holiday of the year — Christmas is noisier for longer, but Easter is concentrated. If you’re the Pope, Easter Sunday is great for you, news wise. If you’re not the Pope, not. Certainly anything that happened the day before Easter is toast.

If I were a crooked politician who had been caught murdering kittens while masturbating to a picture of Joseph Stalin, then the day I would choose to have that news go out into the world would be the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. That is the only scenario on which that day is optimal for the release of information. Conversely, if I were a publicist with a client who wanted the world to know what they were doing, and the client said “Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s release the news of our biggest event on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter!” I would stare blankly at the client while I counted to ten in my head, followed by “Well, we could do that, but –”

Now, this is someone’s cue to jump in and note that the reason for announcing on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is because it’s a nice little treat for all the fans who attend Easter weekend conventions. This is a poor reason, from the point of view of publicizing and marketing the awards. The fans at conventions are already pre-sold on the idea of the importance of the Hugo Awards and will be excited about (or, if they don’t like the slate that year, annoyed at) them and will talk about them at length no matter when the nominations are announced. That being the case, the goal should be to get the Hugos into the consciousness of the larger public. You won’t do that by releasing the information on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.

If the conventions were on any other weekend, I could possibly see the argument for releasing the information on Sunday — it wouldn’t be optimal but then at least the announcement would land in a cycle where the news would still be reasonably fresh for Monday (releasing news on a Saturday for a Sunday news cycle is not a great idea — remember that most news orgs and blogs are running skeleton staffs, and your usual contacts are probably at home). But there is no good day on the Easter weekend to release any announcement, and Saturday least of all.

That Worldcon organizers announce their premier bit of news for the benefit of only a handful of fans at the expense of harnessing the power of the press really does not make any sense at all; it’s putting the cart before the horse. Nor does it even serve the larger interest of the fans, other than most insular of them. To put it another way, if you gripe about how the Hugo doesn’t get enough attention but don’t see why releasing the news about the nominations on the Saturday of Easter weekend is problematic, you might be part of the problem.

Releasing the information on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter also makes it harder for nominees and their publishers/organizations to publicize the Hugo nominations they get. Yes, when the Hugo nominations are finally announced, nominees happily go to Twitter and squee about them and publishing house publicists do the same. But again — on a Saturday, when fewer people are looking, and on the deadest Saturday of the year. Then when the week starts, the authors and the PR people have to try to sell to the rest of the media a story that’s already two days old. It’s literally old news, which diminishes the native interest in the story and also, even if the media outlet takes a nibble, the amount of space they are willing to devote to the story.

Yes but what about io9 and Locus and the SF-oriented media online? They run it on Saturday when it happens! Yes they do, and I assure you that they wish they could announce that stuff during the week, when their readership is significantly higher and the story will get that much more play. Because, again, by the time the weekdays roll around, it’s old news. The only stories they have left to play during the week are the annoyed reactions by people who are unhappy with the nomination slate. Which is to say, releasing the nominations on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter all but guarantees that stories complaining about the Hugo Awards will get bigger play in the SF-oriented media than the actual nomination announcement itself. And that is no way to run a railroad.

If I were in charge of announcing the Hugo nominations, I would announce them 10am Eastern on the Tuesday before Easter. Tuesday is a fine day to announce things you want to see get play in the media because it gives news editors plenty of time to slot you in, it gives publicists plenty of time to make announcements and get on the horn to their media contacts, and it’s during the week when the whole rest of the world might be paying attention, along with the fans. And then the Easter weekend cons can still play with the news, with panels and possibly other special events. Everybody wins.

If for some reason I couldn’t do that Tuesday, I would release on (in order of desirability) Wednesday, Monday or Thursday. Under no circumstances would I release on Friday (a holiday) or Sunday (Easter, for God’s sake). I would lick a wall socket before I released the news on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.

So, in short: The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the worst possible time to announce the Hugos, is bad for the Hugos, and is bad for the nominees. Please stop doing it that way. Get the Hugos the attention they deserve as the pre-eminent award in science fiction and fantasy. That means announcing them beyond the small group of science fiction and fantasy fans attending conventions on Easter weekend.

Just, you know, consider it, please. It’s not too much to ask.

Update: 4:15pm: Toned down the opening graph because I might have been slightly unfair in the assessment.

191 Comments on “A Plea to Current and Future Worldcons, re: Announcing the Hugo Nominations”

  1. For the people who will no doubt note that the last time the Worldcon announced something on a Saturday it got plenty of attention: Yes, it did, and was in fact a master class on how not to announce anything. I may discuss it at length, from a marketing/PR point of view, at some point when it’s not so contentious.

    But for now let’s not have it be a feature in this particular discussion, except to note that it’s further evidence that Saturday is a cursed day to release information of any sort.

  2. Seconded. I do think that while it is a “treat” for Eastercon and company, it’s burying the lede in a big way.

    F/SF fandom needs to think bigger and better. We are NOT 27 people in a hotel room in New York. (I suspect the Ross incident was a good spur to orienting people’s minds to this fact)

  3. I have to admit, I never noticed that was the day Hugos are announced, and that’s almost hilariously dumb of a choice of day.

  4. Wait.. they’re actually planning on doing this? I would have thought anyone with a pulse would know not to announce ANYTHING you want publicity for on a Saturday, but Easter weekend? News organizations who are already understaffed on weekends are doubly so on holiday weekends.

    They’d get more publicity if they announced it on my twitter, and I have like 23 followers.

  5. John ,
    I might be making an unwarranted assumption here , but is it possible that you are not entirely happy that the Hugo nominations are announced on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter?

  6. Shayde:

    “Wait.. they’re actually planning on doing this?”

    They’ve done it that way for the last few years. It’s genuinely incomprehensible to me. Which is to say, I know why they do it, but it’s so short-sighted that it always takes me aback.

  7. I’ve always thought this. One thing really pushing this was the London bid/Loncon, which has been doing the announcements from Eastercon. This has brought much attention to Loncon/Eastercon, which isn’t a bad thing, but I wonder how much good will is generated vs. how much goodwill is lost for not releasing the darn thing on Monday, or even better, on a regular schedule.

    Worse, since Easter is a moveable feast, you don’t have The Day when the nominations come out. You know how the Oscar Nominations announcement has become a thing. Lord, look at what’s happen to Draft Day in various US pro sports. Although, the though of releasing the nominations on Fat Tuesday has a certain charm. You could even give the nominees Hugo beads.

    IMHO, WSFS as a whole should mandate The Day, and ride the publicity of both the The Day and, of course, the lead up to The Day. I say WSFS because they are functionally the only body that could mandate such a thing, the actual Worldcons are completely separate institutions. WSFS, however, is generally loathe to mandate how a Worldcon functions except in the most general form.*

    So, to have The Day, you have to get the concoms to agree — and any of them could change that any time.

    * What the Worldcon is required to have by WSFS, at least as of a few years ago. It has to do site selection. It has to award the Hugos and Campbell Award — note, not hold a ceremony, conduct the vote and announce the winners, then mailing the awards would be legal. The voting method for both is specified. Finally, it has to hold a preliminary and final business meeting, where site selection is automatically on the agenda. You could run the whole thing, WSFS legal, out of one large hotel room in about 30 hours.

    I’ve been tempted to bid that as a hoax bid, because I’d be more than willing to do the work if it won. This is an IMPORTANT rule of hoax bids. Ask the Boat Bid.

  8. WWJD? Not announce on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Even he’s dead then.

  9. If there were ever a good reason to be more religious, being able to write “Holy Saturday” instead of “The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter” a couple dozen times might be it.

  10. The Hugos should use the Oscars as their role model. Without getting into a Good Oscars/Bad Oscars discussion, the mastery shown by the Oscars process can teach a lot on how to make the media sit up, lie down, roll over, etc. While the Hugos are much smaller, the goal of somehow, someday getting the Hugo nominations done live on Today or any of the morning “news” shows is a worthwhile goal. You might have to get a Sandra Bullock or a George Clooney involved, but for most of us, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, either.

  11. So, in order of preference, you have
    1. Tuesday
    2. Wednesday
    3. Monday
    4. Thursday
    5. Lick a wall socket
    6. Friday, Saturday, or Sunday

    I will now be putting “Lick a wall socket” on all of my ordered lists of preferences.

  12. If I were a crooked politician who had been caught murdering kittens while masturbating to a picture of Joseph Stalin

    I would pay to be at that press conference!

    When I was freelancing/stringing, Tuesdays were always the best day for news. Busy, with lots of interesting stuff, and plenty of time for follow up stories that get attention and/or hits. For some reason, it was always easiest to book interviews on Tuesdays, too. No idea why, but I kept a dead-tree journal, and my Tuesdays were always solidly scheduled.

    Also… @Jane: roflmao!

  13. Erin Underwood:

    Thanks. I’ll be blunt and say what I expect to happen is nothing and for the Hugo nominations to be announced Saturday at Eastercon/other conventions. Because in fandom anything done once is a tradition and anything done twice is a hallowed tradition, and this has been done this way several times already.

  14. Jane, I nearly died stifling the laughs that would have caused the whole office to shake their heads knowingly.

  15. By way of refutation:

    1) This uses Marketing logic.
    2) Marketing is evil.
    3) This is therefore evil.

    Aaand that’s all I’ve got. I’d love to see it on a Tuesday, evil subterfuge potential notwithstanding.

  16. Generally speaking, when I’m about to ask someone to do something, I don’t first refer to their actions as idiotic and then later compare their actions to unspeakable behaviors. It just doesn’t encourage cooperation from the target audience.

  17. I have to disagree. Easter weekend is a major convention weekend for most of fandom, and I rather like this tradition of the Easter Saturday announcement.

    That said, the sitting Worldcon COULD do a major media push to mundane media on the Tuesday after Easter. They can send out their formal press release, and have some people available to talk to the press. Giving fandom/publishers a three day “heads up” on the formal announcement would then give publishers a little extra time to get their publicity ready for the formal announcement.

  18. “I would announce them 10am Eastern on the Tuesday before Easter.” – Absolutely!

    Tuesdays are best for most communications because people will have caught up on their Monday rush/emails and will be looking for something … anything … else to keep sane before the midweek work-like-a-fiend storm hits.

  19. I did once see a theory that the Warsaw Pact plans for invading Western Europe always started on Easter Saturday because Easter Monday is a Bank/Public Holiday in much of the continent, so senior government and military personnel wouldn’t be back until Tuesday.

  20. Maybe they want the awards to slip under the radar and get no notice. If this is “tradition” than they clearly don’t care about publicity or how said publicity might move a book or two in the stores.

  21. This is interesting, and good of you to post, because I bet there’s a substantial proportion of us who *haven’t* thought about it. I’m a Camberville casual pagan whose immediate family isn’t around, so the only time Easter really crosses my mind is “ooh, Creme Eggs!”. I would have said that any weekend immediately around Christmas or Halloween is a bad one to release news, but Easter? Would not have occurred to me until now.

  22. ” Giving fandom/publishers a three day ‘heads up’ on the formal announcement would then give publishers a little extra time to get their publicity ready for the formal announcement.”

    Who in the media would wait for the formal announcement, or consider it news at that point, after it’s been announced in public to hundreds of fans or more, many of whom are frequently saying stuff online? Unless you think you can swear them all to secrecy for three days, I don’t see how this would work.

  23. Laurie Mann:

    “That said, the sitting Worldcon COULD do a major media push to mundane media on the Tuesday after Easter.”

    Because the “mundane media” will be happy to run news that is two days stale (and already reported on, for what little good it did at the time) when they have new, fresh news to consider? No. That’s not going to go very far. I’ve already noted how publishing house PR folks already have an uphill battle selling the news. This would not be any different.

    The Hugos are fan-run, fan-voted Awards, but they are also de facto the industry awards for SF/F publishing, a fact that Worldcon organizers rely on as part of the status of Worldcon in general. It would not be out of line for Worldcon organizers to help out other constituencies in publicizing the award, as well as itself, rather than shooting the Hugo in the foot, PR wise, right out of the gate.

    Glenn Glazer:

    Well, you know. The point has been made politely and privately before. And I think it’s fine to point out in public that a move that is idiotic is, in fact, idiotic.

  24. Also, describing the media as mundane is unlikely to make said mundane media interested in anything other than running articles about the pretentiousness of SF fans…

  25. I agree completely, and being loncon they really should know better.

    Here in the UK the Friday and Monday are public holidays, making Easter a 4 day weekend for most people. Most of the population will be at the beach, visiting relatives, rock climbing, digging the garden or doing something else more interesting than reading the news.

  26. Jane: I have this internet here for you, where would you like me to put it?

    Oh, and could you sign next to the post-it flags on the clipboard, thanks…

  27. John:

    I obviously don’t know who you spoke with, I would argue that ‘politely and publicly’ comes between ‘politely and privately’ and ‘not politely and publicly’ since these decisions are not made by entirely the same people year after year.

    You can write in whatever mode you like on your blog, far be it from me to say that that is not fine. But if you are seeking to convince, to persuade, then I suggest that this member of your target audience is not only not persuaded of your cause, but in fact put off by sheer vehemence of your words.

  28. Laurie: “Easter weekend is a major convention weekend for most of fandom”

    I would suggest a revision: “Easter weekend is a major convention weekend for a sizeable chunk of the subset of fandom that does Easter weekend conventions”. That’s just a wee bit circular, but by design. First, is that subset of fandom actually “most” of fandom? Second, as John’s already covered, to what extent is “fandom” (in whatever form it takes) the group with the most to gain or lose by how the announcement is scheduled?

  29. This is a typical Western centric viewpoint. Large portions of the world are not Christian and this weekend is just another weekend to them. As well, the typical Saturday-Sunday breakdown in the work week is again a custom familiar mostly to Europe and North America.
    Since the sci-fi community is definitively a global community, I find this post to be in rather bad taste. It smacks of typical colonial privilege, and when penned by a white, cishet man like yourself, distressingly tonedeaf.

    I guess if it’s not convenient for an American white dude, then it’s not convenient for the rest of us.

  30. Laurie Mann: “That said, the sitting Worldcon COULD do a major media push to mundane media on the Tuesday after Easter.”

    I work in and with mundane media, and Scalzi is exactly correct here. Four days later, it’s old news.

  31. In this instance, I have to disagree with John. The Hugo’s are the award given out by the Worldcon fans. Going to a convention over Easter and seeing the nominations announced live is fun. Fans having fun is rather the point of the whole thing.
    That the Hugo’s are also the de facto industry award and that they provide publishers and authors publicity is nice from a marketing perspective, but isn’t really the point. Marketing and fun do not necessarily coincide.
    Now, does having the award announced on Saturday decrease the fun of anyone? I don’t think so. The information on when the nominations will be presented is known well in advance. Having the announcement be on the Tuesday before (when no one is at a Con) would drastically limit the number of people who could actually be part of the announcement.

  32. Glenn Glazer:

    “I suggest that this member of your target audience is not only not persuaded of your cause, but in fact put off by sheer vehemence of your words.”

    If you would ignore a sound argument because it wasn’t delivered in precisely the tone you desire, Glenn, then that’s a problem in itself, I would say.

  33. My recollection is the “tradition” of announcing the nominations on Easter Saturday is actually a fairly recent one. I don’t have a list of the nomination announcement dates to hand, but picking a random, not-too-recent year, 2009 and searching for announcement reports gives a date of March 19th, 2009, and Easter Saturday that year would have been April 11th. Despite being a fan who is not only interested in the Hugos, but also a voter (I went to that years Worldcon, Anticipation in 2009) I don’t recall any seething froth of media interest at the time caused by announcing mid-week, but the very unscientific search “hugo award nominations “2009” “announced”” gets me 117,000 results and the search “hugo award nominations “2012” “announced”” gets me 381,000 results, so perhaps the network effects of a simultaneous announcement to several large groups of interested, committed and these days, highly-connected fans in different countries works better than sending out one more press release among many.
    I missed the 2010 & 2012 announcements, but in both of those cases I was typing up the embargoed release into a special issue of the Eastercon newsletter so I could put a still-warm-from-the-printer copy into the hands of everyone coming out of the announcement event. I think turning the Hugo nominations into an event, rather than just a release has helped increase interest and while we could always improve, I wouldn’t want to lose that.
    After all, isn’t the Sunday before Labor Day a really bad time to announce the results too?

  34. Heavy sigh. It isn’t a matter of desire. You have a proposition. You wish others to accept that proposition and therefore seek to persuade. It is up to each individual hearing the argument as to whether they find the argument persuasive or not. I am simply suggesting to you, as the old saw goes, that you will usually get more bees with honey than with vinegar.

    Also, you are overstating what I did say, it doesn’t have to be “precisely in the tone I desire”, just somewhere, say, in the same neighborhood would be nice.

    But you don’t have to take my word for it, please do continue to write however you like. Please forgive me if, as a consequence, I somehow fail to be compelled.

  35. I’d observe that since you already pointed out that the media doesn’t pay attention on holiday weekends, would they care when the initial announcement was?

    The Hugos are not analogous to the Oscars, they are analogous to the Edgars, the Romance Awards, the Western Awards. Literary awards not covered much in the media other than the National Book Award, the Pulitzers and some years the Newbery and Caldecott. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try different things – doing formal nomination announcements during the Saturday of Easter conventions WERE a different thing not that long ago. But I don’t think announcing the nominations on a Saturday or on a Tuesday would matter all that much.

  36. I wasn’t suggesting that – I know the odds of having a few thousand fans keep a secret are slim and none. All I’m suggesting is why not keep the “announcement to fandom” during Easter conventions and do the press contacts the Tuesday following?

  37. Jane, your internet is in the mail. Best. Comment. Ever.

    Laurie, because the press won’t care by Tuesday. If something happens on Tuesday, it’s news. If something happens Saturday, on Tuesday it’s history. The history beat at major news outlets is an empty desk with a disconnected phone.

  38. Absolutely right. I also work in communications and media relations, and many organizations I worked for — barring emergencies — generally did not issue press releases (those that they WANTED picked up by the media) later than early Wednesday afternoon. In a pinch you can issue a release on a Thursday, but it makes the window for media followup very tight, especially if the release goes out late in the day.

    As John says, if you want a story buried but are obliged to release it, 4:58 PM on a Friday is great, and 4:58 PM on a Friday before a long weekend is the platonic ideal. It’s hard to imagine a non-emergency situation where I’d put out a release on a Saturday, let alone Saturday on Easter Weekend. I never realized that the Hugo nomination announcements were going out this way, and I concur completely with John. Unless the goal is to bury the story, this is absolutely the wrong way to go.

    And, by the way, this is about media relations best practices, not about religion. This would apply equally if the announcement were going out on ANY long holiday weekend.

  39. I have always been baffled (as a marketing person) about fandom and the press. When I’ve worked PR for any con, I have always managed to get us into the paper, and often into several, usually on a ‘good’ day (I got Gaylaxicon Toronto, a pretty tiny con, into the Saturday Star, which at the time had the half a million issues printed, and a comparable online readership).

    But I have given this and similar advice to conventions and other fannish events repeatedly, and frequently gotten similar responses. I have never been able to convince most fen that there’s actually an advantage to having a real, active PR person, not just a press liaison who will help the fannish press and blogs cover a fannish event.

  40. Laurie Mann: “would they care when the initial announcement was?”

    Insofar as the answer to “When was this announced?” is “Four days ago,” yes they (where “they” are editors, radio and tv producers/bookers, and other deadline-driven decision-makers in mundane media) would care about when the announcement was. By planning that lag, by choosing that lag, the organizers are guaranteeing that getting media coverage and publicity for the announcement will be much, much more difficult.

    People who are motivated to find out about the Hugos will be able to find the information. But people who are less motivated, who will be interested if they encounter the information passively but who will not actively seek it out, are less likely to hear about the nominations if the announcement is shouted into the news equivalent of a vacuum.

  41. I was a PR consultant for many years, even had the letters APR after my name. Before that, I was a press secretary to Canadian cabinet ministers in sernior portfolios. Before that, I was a newspaper editor. I concur with everything John is saying.

    Just about the only news announcement that would get decent coverage if released on the Easter Weekend Saturday is: “Jesus Christ upstages Pope in surprise cameo appearance!”

  42. Fandom isn’t like industry in that fandom happens on weekends. Publicity is a secondary consideration to participation, and the weekend is when we have people in the room, and that’s where we get word of mouth. If publicity were the primary objective of the Hugos, we wouldn’t bother with an award ceremony at all, we could just issue a Tuesday-morning press release.

    I’ve been in the room four times and my recollection is a couple of those were on Sundays. Sundays let us get discussion on Sunday evenings when a lot of people (in our community) are online. Sunday afternoon is close to Monday morning.

    Holding it in person means we leverage the buzz, word of mouth in person and online, of all the conventions where the announcement happens. This is a way of reaching out to a large fraction of the voting community, which we would lose if the announcement were reduced to a mere press release. Also making it an event makes it more of a story. Do it on a weekday and there’s no news.

  43. I would also point out that Easter is REALLY late this year. Having a mandated Day (the first Tuesday in April, say) would be a good thing.

    Ray, I don’t know the numbers of SFF fans outside Europe/America/Australia, or how they compare to the number of fans in those areas (lots of fans in Japan, I know, but Asia and the Middle East? no idea). I’m assuming you do; could you supply the data please?

    Even if the numbers are huge, shifting off a major holiday weekend in Europe/America/Australia and onto a Tuesday improves things in a major set of media markets, and as far as I know makes it worse (from a media standpoint) exactly nowhere. Friday is a day off (for prayers) in many Muslim countries, but I don’t know of one where Tuesday is the dead spot. Please let me know if you do.

    Because otherwise, you’d seem to just be trolling, and I am loath to believe you are.

  44. I think it’s also important to note that in several European countries Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays so people will use the long weekend for a short vacation or trip. And that includes a lot of fandom people.

    Anything that’s released during the Easter weekend (and the days before and after) will not really be noticed. Not a good date to publish anything.

  45. Ok, at the risk of getting flamed here, we’re talking about a literary award, something most average people know nothing about, nor care about. The only ones who care, are those of us who know what day the award is announced, thus eliminating any care what day it is. It’s not like breaking news on CNN. It’s not even page 115 in the NY Times. Ok, now shred me to the bone.

  46. Ray Pensador : “Large portions of the world are not Christian and this weekend is just another weekend to them. As well, the typical Saturday-Sunday breakdown in the work week is again a custom familiar mostly to Europe and North America.”

    So… to much of the world Easter Saturday is no more or less significant or convenient than the Tuesday before? Why not move it to the one more convenient for the people who do note the difference?

  47. This Saturday thing is a myth from the old days of news, when it was only newspapers or television news that provided the news coverage.

    People don’t get news that way anymore, not even old people.

    The reason that the Hugo’s don’t get more mainstream coverage is because the mainstream non-SFF fandom world is tired of us.

  48. @glenn
    jeez who made you the tone police? I hate this type argument because its presented as axiomatic when the reality is more complicated than that. Truth is, changs rarely happens when people are polite. Suffragettes, blacks, unions, an dither marginalized groups had to shout to make themselves heard.

    Tone policing is just another way to tell people to sit down and shut up. If we really want to police each others tones here, I will point out that your tone is entitled and condescending.

  49. The Easter weekend announcements succeeded at raising awareness of the award among likely voters. Before that, I could argue that nearly nobody noticed the announcement. Many people only learned of the nominees when ballots showed up in the mail. In other words, only eligible voters even knew.

    By that metric, it’s a success.

    But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a decision worth revisiting with an eye to raising the bar further.

  50. Hi John

    Like Laurie, I don’t really subscribe to the argument that the live announcement at the conventions is something that should be written off as essentially irrelevant. Ironically I think your argument was much more valid a few years ago when we typically didn’t have a “live” announcement and certainly didn’t stream – at that time I think it would have been right to focus on the external media.

    I understand your argument about the role of the Hugos as Industry Awards but the weekend announcement allows a lot of fans to follow along live from all around the world – and the audience for that has grown steadily with the promotional push of the last ~5 years. And the simultaneous announcement at typically 4 cons rather than just one has also increased the sense of this being an event in its own right.

    This is not as simple as “the organizers don’t care about the industry or the publishers.” Ultimately the awards come from Worldcon and the Worldcon membership therefore has to be the first concern, at the same time as you say, the awards carry prestige and rely on industry support. I think BOTH constituencies have to be considered, and while I understand your frustration that the current situation seems to weight 100% to one side, I think it’s important that the counter-proposal doesn’t just flip 100% to the OTHER side and simply dismiss the sense of event that goes around fandom online and through the weekend conventions.

    Having worked on the coverage (like Laurie) in recent years, I have to say also that I’m not totally convinced that a weekday release would get us materially more column inches. A lot of the write-ups actually come after a delayed period (couple of days out to weeks) because they involve commentary and consideration of the nominee list beyond the simpe announcement of the names.

  51. To add emphasis: as Andrew said, in the old days we did just often push the release out by email and truth is, noone cared. It seems to me that the “event” nature of the announcement has actually raised the profile materially within the core constituency and for instance my first focus as someone involved in the Awards is not the number of media outlets covering the list, but the number of eligible nominators who actually submit ballots. That improves the validity of the nominee list and the sense of ownership of the awards within the WSFS membership. And THAT figure has gone up remarkably in recent years, and I’m sure the raised profile of the shortlist announcement has helped (along with various other changes that have been made like adding the following Worldcon’s members to the nominating pool).

  52. Glenn Glazer:

    “Please forgive me if, as a consequence, I somehow fail to be compelled.”

    NO. NEVER.

    (Actually, that’s not true, of course. You can be unconvinced. I hope you’ll be in the minority.)

    Rod Rubert:

    “I would have been more interested in Mr. Scalzi’s opinion of whether there is a schism rather than a religious interpretation of Toni Weisskopf’s piece.”

    Schisms aren’t religious? Someone tell Martin Luther!

    More seriously, I think there are opinionated people of all sorts in science fiction, and some ideas are ascendant and others are in decline. It’s possible for individual people to hold some opinions of one sort, and other opinions of others. I do think if you push an “us v. them” mentality against other people in science fiction, you’re going to find you’re “them” rather than “us,” and I suspect Ms. Weisskopf might now be aware that her bit sounded like she’s working hard to create a “them” out of her group of folks (whether she intended to do that or not).

    Laurie Mann:

    “I’d observe that since you already pointed out that the media doesn’t pay attention on holiday weekends, would they care when the initial announcement was?”

    Yes. Just because they’re not in the office when the news comes out doesn’t mean they won’t judge it as old news when they come back.

    Also, you can’t have two announcements, one for Fandom and one for the Media, because as soon as the information goes out, it is out. Fandom is not a discrete — or discreet — entity. Even with it, you couldn’t expect Locus or io9 to sit on information for two or three days. Embargoes only work if everyone plays along, and Worldcon itself would be breaking the embargo.


    “Do it on a weekday and there’s no news.”

    That is so spectacularly wrong that it’s hard to know where to even begin with it. Alex, fandom is tiny, and most of the “excitement” it generates is internal to itself. Likewise, as noted, they have already bought in to the Hugos being a thing. Also, and I’m just spitballing here, I think the excitement to be generated by a large media play regarding the Hugos is more than compensatory.

    The only way your formulation is correct is if you think the Hugos are only an award some fans give out because. It’s not that — or not just that, more accurately. It hasn’t been that pretty much ever. It’s worth it to look beyond the fandom horizon on this one.

    Colin Harris:

    “…as Andrew said, in the old days we did just often push the release out by email and truth is, noone cared.”

    Well, no, if you “just pushed the release out by e-mail,” of course they would not. To be blunt, not making an effort to adequately market the award to the media is not a tremendous excuse to retreat to releasing the news on the absolute deadest news day of the entire year.

  53. In this thread, I’m still seeing a big disconnect between fandom and readers of speculative fiction in general. Regular convention goers are very small part of the those who read science fiction/fantasy on a regular basis, many of whom are potentially interested in genre awards. I work in a nerdy dept of a university, have mostly nerdy friends, and hang out with roleplayers, and have been reading SF for decades. I know MANY people who read genre fiction extensively to exclusively. I can think of maybe 3 who have been to a SF con, 2 of which went to Dragon Con, which is more varied (I know dozens who go to gaming cons though – holy cow, I just looked it up and didn’t realize how small Worldcon is, an 8th the size of Gen Con!).

    I realize that the Hugos are a fan award but fan can mean more than con attendee. Exclusivity is the fast track to an aging, dying hobby.

  54. This might have been an argument a few years ago but, as mentioned above, I can’t imagine anyone now getting their Hugo news from the press.

    A link up across 3 Continents complete with enthusiastic fans and nominees is something that can be potentially exploited more effectively than a pretty dull printed press release.

  55. Guy, [lip trembling] You’re just so…brave…to come here and say something so…brave…among all these cruel and heartless people! We are awestruck, honestly. </sarcasm>

    That’s the “self-valorization” square on my Bingo card! Thank you.

    And, of course, you’re wrong. 1. No one shreds people here; Scalzi won’t tolerate it (and if you think the very gentle ribbing above counts, you haven’t seen a proper shredding). 2. The point is to improve the chances of some small notice being taken by the mainstream press, rather than guaranteeing that no such notice will be taken.

    Rachel, I suppose I would be dating myself by saying “RIGHT ON!!” But, you know, dating yourself beats sitting at home.

  56. Martin Easterbrook:

    “This might have been an argument a few years ago but, as mentioned above, I can’t imagine anyone now getting their Hugo news from the press.”

    Wow, really? Do you think the advent of the Internet has magically wiped out the press? Because I’m not going to lie to you, off the top of my head I can think of literally dozens of places where this information could go, and not just in the mainstream media. A vague “oh, I can’t think of anyone who does it that way” dismissal doesn’t suggest that there aren’t people who do it that way; it merely suggests that you’re not aware of what is out there.

    Look, guys, I’m not going to lie to you — the responses I’m getting from conrunners in the thread here so far are that a) you either can’t or won’t see over the fandom horizon to see the benefit of widely and competently publicizing the award, and b) that you would rather settle for giving a thrill for whatever small number of fans are in the room for an announcement than doing the work to raise the profile of the award in the media, with all the long-term, knock-on benefits that would entail.

    And if you’re running the Worldcon, that’s your right. But it’s foolish and short-sighted, and for everyone else involved, it puts the award (and those who could benefit from the award’s higher profile) at a severe disadvantage.

  57. I am amused by a man making a vehement argument about what is and isn’t a good PR move, and then wants to discount criticisms of how the tone and posture he uses in making this argument is likely to affect the response to his post. Because of course, tone never affects effectiveness in PR, and how normal people react to abuse is irrelevant to getting out a message. That’s why most press releases are scornful and deprecatory of their intended audiences. Or not.

  58. Ulrika:

    I paid the conrunners the compliment of assuming they were big enough boys and girls that they could handle something other than head-patting and quiet, soothing tones. Interesting that you assume otherwise.

    Also, to be clear, this is the polite version. The impolite version is a thing to behold, I assure you.

  59. I’m sympathetic to Laurie’s point that it’s nice for that subset of fandom who go to Easter weekend cons to celebrate the Hugo announcements live. And y’know, there are four fan-specific Hugo awards that rarely get the attention they deserve — why not announce Fanzine, Fancast, Fan Writer, and Fan Artist live during the cons (as those nominees are more likely than average to be in attendance) and let them have four days in the sun before announcing the rest?

  60. @Rachel “Tone policing is just another way to tell people to sit down and shut up.” Well, it’s true that a cohort of social justice warriors choose to collectively interpret it that way, and use it as an excuse to stop listening and start making rote accusations. Which just reinforces Glenn’s point, I think. How you word things will affect how people respond to what you say.

  61. I realize that the Hugos are a fan award but fan can mean more than con attendee.

    Man, I’d say you could go so far as to say that fan more than likely DOESN’T mean con attendee. Certainly if the Worldcon people wanted to they could easily gather some intel on this – ask one survey question with the sale of a voting non-attending membership: “have you been to one or more conventions in the last 12 months?”

    I’d lay $20 down on the bet that at least 1/4 say no. And that’s out of a group of people interested enough in the materials to lay down aprox $40 this year. How many more readers notice the Hugo awards but don’t even connect them to an event? Or how many readers simply don’t have the financial resources or proximity to a convention but are still people who spend money on books?

    To me the best argument against this “it’s nice for the con attendees,” though, is that it’s less nice for the people who the awards are supposedly meant to honor: the nominees. To give some nice feels to fans this move diminishes the value of the awards for the nominees who might leverage it into more success.

  62. ” a crooked politician who had been caught murdering kittens while masturbating to a picture of Joseph Stalin”

    That is a very hilariously colorful description.

    I’m fairly new to the SF & Fantasy circles, so for what it’s worth. As someone that wasn’t in this circle until now. I can honestly say that, I never heard any kind of media announcement about the Hugos. As far as it comes to book awards, I only really knew about them from the stickers they slap on books to get people to read them.

    So, I wholeheartedly agree that they should be announce in a way that can have the most impact on the general populaces and not just the fans.

  63. So, John, are you suggesting that if I start calling you an idiot in comments here (presumably in the context of an argument about why you are an idiot) that you will take that as a compliment to your maturity and will not moderate them out of existence?

    “[Y]ou either can’t or won’t see over the fandom horizon to see the benefit of widely and competently publicizing the award…”

    Okay, John, since you brought it up, what is the benefit they aren’t seeing?

  64. Rats, I was just about to take Ulrika to task for using a smug, superior tone, and being patently offensive in her wording. (It was long and sarcastic and great fun to write, but it’s for the bit bucket now.)

  65. So, John, what about the point that the Hugos aren’t like the Oscars, they’re like the Edgars and other genre awards? These smaller literary awards get very little coverage from the mainstream press – maybe a little acknowledgement when the winners come out but usually not much when the nominees are announced no matter what day you send out the nominee press release.

  66. Ulrika:

    You’ve been saying less than polite things about me for so long, Ulrika, that it wouldn’t strike me as different from your usual manner of speaking.

    With that said, you’re making the unforced error of thinking because I said something is idiotic — which announcing the Hugo nominations on Easter Saturday most certainly is, from a marketing/PR point of view — with calling out specific people as idiots, which I have not. Maybe you don’t distinguish the difference, but I do. It puzzles me why smart people, as conrunners are, do something so (to me) stupid.

    “Okay, John, since you brought it up, what is the benefit they aren’t seeing?”

    We didn’t read the article, did we, Ulrika?

    Laurie Mann:

    “So, John, what about the point that the Hugos aren’t like the Oscars, they’re like the Edgars and other genre awards?”

    That the PR travails of small writing organizations should not predicate a Worldcon’s media strategy. I think it’s realistic to understand the Hugo will not garner the same media attention as the Oscars, Grammys or Tonys — but that still leaves a lot of room to work with.

  67. Xopher , I agree, it should be something that attracts more notice, and it wasn’t my intention to say it shouldn’t. I guess to be fair, though, mainstream media isn’t the best platform for things to garner needed attention these days. If the solution were simple I’m sure someone would have come up with it by now. Perhaps this can be John’s summer project.

  68. West Wing had a great episode “Take out the Trash Day” which instructed me on how to read news from the White House, esp news that was released on Friday or Saturday.

  69. I’ve sat in the room when the nominations were announced. It was fun, and I enjoyed it. But I can see other options having other benefits, and this is the kind of that can vary year to year depending on the desires of that year’s Worldcon So if you want to see it differently, ask your favorite Worldcon bids for future years! It’s not just about what the weather is like, or how close it is, but can include decisions like this.

  70. What “long-term knock-on benefits” are you hoping to encourage, John. Raise con attendance, increase awareness of the Hugo in itself, increase publisher/author profitability, …?
    You mention that it would make it easier for the nominees/publishers to publicize their nomination. Anything else?
    Who (among people who are interested in literary awards) is not finding out about the Hugo awards?

  71. I love a tone arguer claiming that the term is used as a way to derail substantive conversation… when they raised no issues from the original assertion EXCEPT tone. Brilliant. Glad to see you’ve finally decided to wander away from that and raise a real issue.

    The obvious benefits of releasing Hugo news at a time when it will get attention outside the convention hall itself is that it will get attention outside the convention hall itself, via media outlets that still have a notable readership.

    The primary question there is “do we care?” John obviously thinks they should. I do too. If you only want the Hugos to be of interest and value to the people in that room for their own gratification then that’s fine. But it limits the power and scope of the award. I can hand out the DonW awards in my basement every year but if nobody ever knows they won it’s an audience of one. Two if I creepily send them to the winners.

    The Hugos currently are larger than that but they’ll never be much larger unless they engage the world outside the conventions. If you look at the example of the Oscars you see the Academy using the nomination announcements to build interest & attention in the event at this earlier stage. Which builds interest & participation in the horse race.

    For a closed voting group like the Academy that’s only really good for the profile of the awards, but the Worldcon folks are leaving money on the table since they sell supporting memberships for people who want to vote. They’re choosing to gratify a group of attendees at the expense of increasing their own participation.

    All those things don’t even address the fact I raised above, that a higher profile Hugo is better for recipients by being more valuable for sales. Which if your only priority is the fan gratification, okay, but I think it’s hard to claim you want to give people awards but don’t care about their interest.

  72. John:

    “NO. NEVER.

    (Actually, that’s not true, of course. You can be unconvinced. I hope you’ll be in the minority.)”

    LOL. Yes, that’s exactly it.

    Rachel: Speaking of condescending, try reading your comments to me as if you were me.

    Don, John engaged in tu quoque, also a logical fallacy in “If you would ignore a sound argument because it wasn’t delivered in precisely the tone you desire, Glenn, then that’s a problem in itself, I would say.” (he tried to push the problem on to me, as you and others in the tone school do, blame the listener) but I decided to ignore that. If you really want to be strict about logical (as opposed to rational) debate, I suggest that the internet is a place you will find very frustrating: I don’t buy all of this tone argument stuff: either one has a point or one feels the need to shout in order to bolster poor points. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_intimidation .

    Ulrika: Precisely and well-said.

  73. So here is how to turn this sows ear into a two-fer (perhaps even a three-fer).
    – Announce the Hugo’s A couple of weeks a head of time, on a Tuesday as a big deal on the Today show (surely someone can work that out – given the shit they shovel they should be desperate for a 10 minute bit that at least appears to be artful).
    – Fly the nominees to the con where they can do at least a quick 30 minute reading or more if they feel like it. Press releases for all week long announcing each one as they commit to being there. This is PR for the authors plus it draws attention to the con.
    – A big press conference at the con followed by releases of pithy video clips etc for news orgs to put out as if they were news (it about all they actually do these days)

    Now you have given a lot of attention to the Hugos, to the authors and the works being nominated, to the genre, to the convention . . . have I missed anyone?

  74. Steve Halter:

    “What ‘long-term knock-on benefits’ are you hoping to encourage, John. Raise con attendance, increase awareness of the Hugo in itself, increase publisher/author profitability, …?”

    Yes! For starters. With the recognition that any work in the direction is indeed a long-term goal, i.e., things take time.

    To be fair to the conrunners who may be exasperated with me at this point, I should note that developing a long-term strategy for promoting the Hugo is made more difficult by the fact that each Worldcon is run by different people, which can make year-to-year continuity something that has to be baked in.

    Also to be clear, I don’t think moving the announcement date will magically cause an explosion of media attention — again, long-term strategy will need to be employed. But I do know running the announcement on Easter Saturday is exactly wrong for effectively publicizing the award outside the people who already know about it.

  75. Oh, and from Don’s linked source: “On the other hand, if I am genuinely trying to get people to listen to me and consider my ideas, then hostility and vitriol are probably not the best way to do itOn the other hand, if I am genuinely trying to get people to listen to me and consider my ideas, then hostility and vitriol are probably not the best way to do it”

    Yes. This.

  76. Um, Frankly, no one would have the money to fly nominees somewhere on a couple of weeks’ notice…

    But Meg Frank on Facebook had a really good idea about this – announce the nominees a few days before the Easter conventions, and encourage each of the Easter weekend cons to hold open one or two panel slots for Hugo nominees to talk about the Hugo nominations. Might be worth seeing if that increases the nominee buzz outside of fandom while still having some newly-nominated nominees in prominent panels at Easter weekend cons.

  77. Laurie Mann:

    Meg Frank is smart in many many ways, and also I think she’s on the right track with that.

    One thing I think I should say that may have been not terribly clear before is that I think fandom and the rest of the world should be served by the announcement — there should definitely be something going on at the Easter conventions that offers the same buzz for the fans who are there.

    (Also I suspect the Hugo nominees would love to be able to have their moment at con all weekend long. Heck, I would!)

  78. There is another point that people have forgotten. Media attention has changed with the Internet.

    In the old days, you released the news to The Media and they chose when to present it to the world. They also had a limited number of column inches. So an event like Hugo Nomination release would be relegated to the news doldrums of the weekend.

    But with the Internet, everything has changed. Now the press release can be released 24 hours a day. The competition is for the readers, not the reporters.

    My guess is that Monday or Tuesday is the best day to release news. People are back from the weekend and catching up on the news. Unlike Friday, Saturday and Sunday where many people consciously step away from the internet to experience the real world.

  79. Is this the reason why your site is always the best place to find the list of Hugo nominees, John? Because I swear every time I go looking for it, the first place I find it is here rather than (I don’t know) the Hugo award site, or a major news organization.

    Also, what’s an Easter weekend convention? Do we have those in the States? (I realize the Worldcon is in London this year, and Eastercon is a thing in the UK — and maybe elsewhere in the Commonwealth?)

  80. Ditto – “In this thread, I’m still seeing a big disconnect between fandom and readers of speculative fiction in general.”

    Plus, if the announcement is widespread enough, this encourages more booksellers to do promotions of the nominated materials, more people to buy SF books, etc.

    Suggestion for determining ideal Hugo nominee announcement day:
    1- Count the total number of words nominated, allow for a normal reading speed and 3 hours per day per week up to the day that voting closes. (One year it was almost impossible to get through all the nominees without serious speed reading and/or reading through several weekends.)
    2- And once you’ve calculated the number of days needed for fans/eligible voters to read all nominations, count back from the voting close date to Hugo Nominations Reading Day1(HNRD1) … and make the nominations announcement on the Tuesday before HNRD1!

  81. Even Russia knows to invade the Crimea on a Friday afternoon through Saturday. Seriously.

    Anyway, plenty of non-con-going people know what the Hugo awards are. I knew what they were when I was little… because I liked SFF books.

  82. I was at the Live! Announcement! of the Hugo nominees last year at Minicon. To the best of my memory there were between 20 and 30 people in the room. True, the people in the room included at least three nominees, but it does seem to me that it makes a lot of sense to reach out with the information to people who DON’T already know all about the Hugos.

    Prioritizing a couple hundred people across three or four conventions over all the many thousands who might see a story in their local paper or (if it’s a slow news day) on their local news, seems silly. It’s not like the people in those hotel function rooms wouldn’t find out about the Hugo nominations anyway. But the folks in their living rooms? They aren’t going to be actively searching out information on the Hugos. They may have never heard of them, or barely heard of them. I guarantee you that not a single person in the hotel function space with me needed to be told about the Hugos.

    If we’re worried about the greying of fandom, and want to do more outreach, this seems to me to be a painless way of going about it. Oh look, there’s an award! And it’ll be voted on by people who are members of that convention! And guess what? You can vote too!

  83. In answer to Kellan’s question, “What’s an Easter weekend convention?”, I don’t know this year’s list, but last year the Hugo nominations were announced at,
    Norwescon 36, in Seatac, WA
    Minicon 48,, in Bloomington, MN
    Marcon 48, in Columbus, OH
    EightSquaredCon (Eastercon), in Bradford, England

  84. This year, the Roman and Greek Orthodox churches/calendars celebrate Easter on the same weekend – Holy Thursday April 17 through Easter Monday April 21st. Plus, there’s Passover which runs Monday April 14 to Tuesday April 22.

    The week before that both Hindus and Buddhists have a week’s worth of various religious holidays starting Tuesday April 8 to Tuesday April 15. Japan’s Golden Week starts Tuesday April 29th this year.

    Bottom line: April is a write-off if you want to do a world-wide announcement – all languages/cultures.

    About the only groups not celebrating a major anything in April are Muslims, atheists and Druids.(And I’m guessing here … can’t find an atheist holiday calendar.)

  85. Kellan Sparver:There are several US cons that run over Easter weekend. For example, Minicon, a Minnesota convention is always over Easter.

    A solution that maximized publicity and fan enjoyment would be optimal of course. Moving everything to the Tuesday before might increase publicity, but would seem to decrease enjoyment for some (yes, yes, clearly a first world problem–but then publicizing Hugo’s is pretty much also a first world problem). How to balance that isn’t completely clear. It would certainly be nice if nominees would flock to cons over the weekend and could then be feted but that seems a tad random and inconvenient for them since they don’t know until that Tuesday that they would be nominated.

  86. No, John, I really and perfectly sincerely am asking you to be more explicit. Let me rephrase then: what are the benefits to the Hugos and the Worldcon? Are we to assume that getting “the media recognition they deserve” and “into the consciousness of the larger public” are in themselves a benefit? Is broader mindshare inherently a benefit? In what way? What specific thing that convention runners want for the Worldcon does that provide? Does it directly translate into more memberships in seated Worldcons? Does it reduce convention center costs or increase the amount of money the convention has in hand ahead of the event or expand the voter base? I see that you think that a different announcement date would be helpful to authors and publishers who wish to publicize their nominations — I get that that’s how it’s beneficial to you — but how does it specifically, practically help the Worldcon?

    And it looks to me like you’re taking for granted that Easter convention attendees already buy memberships in the Worldcon or vote in the Hugos. I think that may be a mistaken assumption. The argument, as I understand it, for raising excitement about the Hugos and the Worldcon among attendees at Eastercon, Minicon, Norwescon, et al is that it isn’t actually a given that people who attend those events already are members in the Worldcon, or are all that knowledgeable about the Hugos and how they work. Lots of them aren’t or don’t. What is a given is that these people already are motivated to join conventions. So if the point of the timing of the Hugo nominees is to increase the Hugos profile among people who are actually likely to participate in the process, existing convention attendees are a more targeted choice of audience to market to.

    If you assume that the point of marketing the Hugos is to sell more books, then getting a wider mind share makes a lot of sense. If you assume that the point of marketing the Hugos is increase in participation in the Worldcon, focusing on a more targeted audience might be a better choice.

  87. I think it’s a good idea to release the nominations on a weekday, but I suggest a Wednesday instead. Tuesday is the traditional release day for new books, and discussion about the awards would make it impossible for authors to get the word out about their newly-available works.

  88. Ulrika: I promise you that every single person in the function space at Minicon where they did the Live! Announcement! of the Hugo nominees last year already knew about the Hugos. Honest.

  89. The “strategy,” insofar as there is one, has been to try and promote to the Hugo Awards’ own core audience, which is first and foremost the members of Worldcon and secondly the people most likely to become members of Worldcon. This has actually worked, if the metric of “number of members who participate in the process” is anything to go on. On the other hand, having now done this for several years, perhaps Worldcons should consider broadening their scope. As has been noted, despite their being a Hugo Awards Marketing Committee (mostly we run TheHugoAwards.org), each Worldcon is completely independent of every other Worldcon, and there is no way to force a Worldcon to (say) announce their results at some other time. Remember, ever Worldcon has to be most concerned about selling enough memberships to pay for their convention, and marketing toward the people most likely to buy such memberships is a by-product of that incentive.

    (Worse, the system is designed in such a way that Worldcons have no incentive at all to market toward people who might buy a membership to a future Worldcon. Doing so spends Worldcon N’s resources on something that will benefit Worldcons N+1, N+2, etc., but never N.)

    @Kellen Sparver: Yes, there are several Easter weekend conventions: Norwescon and Minicon (off the top of my head). There’s also SwanCon in Perth, Australia. In fact, it’s a fairly busy fannish convention weekend. I’ve been involved with a Worldcon bid that did a “24-hour party,” at five separate Easter weekend conventions, handing off the “party baton” to the next convention down the line, thanks to conventions in the US, UK and Australia.

    As the person who does most of the maintenance for the Hugo Awards Web Site, I’m a little put out at your statement “…I swear every time I go looking for it, the first place I find [the Hugo Award results] is here rather than (I don’t know) the Hugo award site.” We have worked very hard to have the results up within minutes of the conclusion of the Hugo Awards ceremony, so if by “first” you mean that John managed to press enter thirty seconds ahead of me, I guess you’re right, but if you mean that the results don’t appear on the Hugo site until weeks later, I don’t know what gave you that idea.

    (Also bear in mind that the person posting the final results to the web site is also busily covering the ceremony live online, and there are only so many things I can do at once.)

    @Cally and others deriding the turnout in person for the Hugo Announcements, note that there were a whole lot more people watching online both on UStream and during the live coverage of the announcement on the Hugo Awards web site. With five simultaneous announcements around the world, it’s a larger group than you might think, although no, it’s not the millions and millions that apparently are required for anyone to think it’s important. Sigh.

  90. John’s points are clearly correct if we care about effective publicity for the Hugo Awards. The question is do we? And the “we” here really has to be members of the world con since they are the ones nominating, voting on, and giving out the awards.

    If your model of a convention is a party for a bunch of your friends, friends of friends, and a few random people who stumble on it, you do not want publicity that is not very narrowly targeted. And really this is not the model for a worldcon. But the people attending it and running it will have been to plenty of smaller conventions where that is the model. And thus are likely to be allergic to PR as a concept.

    However, the purpose the Hugos is to honor people for the creative works they’ve produced. It seems to me only polite for us to do that in a way that is as helpful to them as possible. Clearly structuring the nomination anouncements in a way that lets the authors, artists, and others make the most publicity use of the honor should be a nobrainer.

    Personally, while I’ve been a convention fan for over 40 years and have always attended Minicon, an Easter convention, I couldn’t care less about whether the Hugos were announced during the convention.

  91. And I’m not sure anyone has made you aware of this John, but people who run Worldcons were already aware of the mainstream media deadness of weekends in general and Easter weekend in particular as a date for press releases. As I understand it, the decision to focus on the Easter weekend conventions (especially the Eastercon) was made in full knowledge that it would be at the cost of most wider media attention, but maximizing the impact on people more likely to actually buy at least supporting memberships in the Worldcon was deemed more important and more beneficial to the Worldcon.

  92. “The only stories they have left to play during the week are the annoyed reactions by people who are unhappy with the nomination slate. Which is to say, releasing the nominations on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter all but guarantees that stories complaining about the Hugo Awards will get bigger play in the SF-oriented media than the actual nomination announcement itself. And that is no way to run a railroad.”

    I haven’t seen any discussion about this point. Considering every year, the loudest information I see about the Hugos are people complaining about the Hugos, the current method does seem to be rather less than ideal. As someone who is very interested in the Hugos, but rarely attends conventions (and pretty much just Gen Con rather than any SFF cons) and either way is generally not following this sort of information over weekends, especially a holiday weekend – every year lately, I typically first hear about the Hugos from people’s reactions to someone saying how utterly awful this year’s nominees are.

    So I imagine that it must be pretty fun for those in the room, but for others like me, every year Hugo season is instead launched with arguing and complaints and name calling, after which I know I should go check sites from a few days ago to see who the actual nominees are. Not exactly the most exciting way to start the Hugo season, and I’m probably not alone.

    It would be nice one of these years to see the nominees on a day I actually pay attention to such things and enjoy that before all of the nastiness starts.

  93. Ulrika:

    I’m aware that the focus is for what the conrunners think is for the worldcon they are running. However, I am not convinced that things cannot be managed both for the short-term benefit of the immediate convention, and the long-term benefit of the Hugos and Worldcons in general. It doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both/and. Admittedly the latter takes more planning and a commitment across multiple worldcons.

  94. @Cally – It’s not a question of “knowing about” the Hugos. It’s a question of building people’s personal excitement about them to the degree that more convention fans are motivated to get memberships and participate in the process. I’m not claiming that that definitely works — I have no idea — but that was the motivation I understood to be behind the Easter announcements move. I’m not personally a huge fan of it because it means that the nominations deadline moves around and can be awfully early in the year, depending on when Easter is, but if it actually builds participation in the Worldcon, I can certainly understand the value of the trade-off. And since Loncon is looking to be a very big Worldcon — significantly bigger than anything recent, even in the US — that particular gamble may even have paid off.

  95. Ulrika:

    Simple test: Review past Hugo nominee announcement dates (including what day of the week it was, whether immediately preceding or part of a long weekend, etc.), announcement venues, audiences sizes and types, then run this by the registration stats to see what impact (if any) on Worldcon enrollment/registration.

    Hugos have been part of the Worldon since 1955 … so there’s enough history/data for some simple analysis.

  96. @John “I’m aware that the focus is for what the conrunners think is for the worldcon they are running. ”

    If you read carefully, that isn’t what I said. Nor is it what I meant. I simply said, “the Worldcon”(note the capitalization; it’s a proper noun), full stop, by which I mean any and all of them, not just Loncon or Sasquan, or whatever comes next — when I mean to discuss a particular Worldcon, I use its individual name.

    And by internal logic you could maybe tell that I didn’t mean to say that con runners are just focused on their own Worldcon. Because in my observation, that’s rarely even true. Clearly when the Hugo nominees are announced, it is too late for the Worldcon announcing that set of nominees to build any more participation in the process of nominating for that Worldcon; that ship has already sailed. To the extent that the Easter marketing choice is trying to build participation in the nominating process, it can only be aimed at getting people to participate in future Worldcons. Yes, it might spur people to get memberships to vote on the final ballot, but the real idea of the people who conceived it is a long term one, to build memberships and participation over time, in upcoming Worldcons, even in Worldcons as yet to be voted on, or conceived. Many, maybe most, of the people who work on Worldcons do so over and over again, and are committed to the idea of the convention in general, not just the particular iteration happening this year or next. They’re interested in building participation in Worldcons generally, and Easter marketing is how at least some of them thought to realize that desire. Maybe it won’t work — it will take more that Loncon to find out if it has — but there are at least hints that it might.

    Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for your clarification of what benefit wider marketing is supposed to have to the Worldcon itself, as opposed to publishers or authors?

  97. SFReader:That would be an interesting analysis although, correcting for other values in order to make a statistically valid comparison would be somewhat more difficult than you allude.

    Is the information on where and when all the nominations have been held available online (in a single place) somewhere?

  98. I think you are aiming your comments at the wrong people.

    Many years ago I tried to get all the UK publishers to collaborate on publicising the Hugos, and could not persuade them.

    If they would get together and fund a venue, and reasons for the media to attend, it might work. Just throwing a press release out there and hoping it would be picked up was tried for years and it was noticeably ineffective.

    A proper PR strategy requires money. Lacking that people have contributed a lot of their own time and effort into the one we have. If you can find a way of bringing some money to the table then we can look at other possibilities.

  99. @SFreader – I don’t think anyone who conceived the idea of the Easter announcements was expecting to see immediate impact on registrations. It’s a brand-building exercise, aimed at building the brand among those most likely to take action.

  100. If the Hugos become a bigger thing, more talked about, how could that not make more people interested in voting and, in turn, make more people want to go to Worldcon?

  101. Ulrika:

    “If you read carefully, that isn’t what I said. Nor is it what I meant.”

    Oooooookay, but even with your clarification it doesn’t materially change my opinion that it’s not an either/or thing and it’s likely possible for short-term and long-term goals to both be addressed. Focusing on Easter announcements is a short-term solution — getting committed, established fans in through the turnstiles. It sacrifices a long-term goals of growing the prestige of the Hugos (and by extension bringing attention of new fans to Worldcon). I suspect it’s possible to do both at the same time, not just one or the other.

    Martin Easterbrook:

    “Many years ago I tried to get all the UK publishers to collaborate on publicising the Hugos, and could not persuade them.”

    Then they were stupid, no doubt. How are efforts going for this year with UK publishers?

  102. I know many people still like to think that SF/F is a tight little community–or at least that the writers/readers of it are.

    Sorry, folks who think that, you’re wrong.

    There are lots of SF bestsellers that are marketed as mainstream. Lots of SF/F TV and movies that are huge hits–hey, you might recognize some of those on the Hugo ballot! I guarantee most folks watching Game of Thrones or Doctor Who have never been to an SF convention, and possibly don’t even know they exist.

    There are literally millions of SF/F fans who don’t pay any attention to the Hugo awards, almost certainly because the awards keep a very low profile in the wider world.

    I know some people really believe that Fandom is a Way of Life rather than a thing that people do in their spare time while working a day job and perhaps raising a family. But if you want more fans, and to expand the potential audience for SF (as folks who earn their living by writing the stuff presumably do), then the only way to do that is outreach to those millions of less-rabid fans.

    I don’t read literary fiction and I’m not British, but somehow I always seem to notice when the Man Booker prize is announced (hey, some of the winners have been SF!). Could it be because they work the broad PR for the event?

  103. Of the people who are attending Easter conventions – people who are predisposed to go to cons – what likelihood is it that they will be less inclined to go to Worldcon if the announcement occurs elsewhere and earlier in the week? It seems to me that those people, having had a few days to digest the news, would come into Easter weekend already eager to talk about the nominees (cons could even have a panel for general discussion of that topic), which could raise the number of Worldcon memberships from those events through word of mouth.

    On the other hand, people who go to cons, but not that particular weekend, and people who are fans but don’t often participate in fandom, well, a higher media profile for the Hugo noms seems like it would make it more likely for them to consider a membership.

    And then there are those people who like to read but aren’t really sf fans – wide coverage of the best sf has to offer can encourage people to give the nominees a try, and some of those people will go on to become fans, to everyone’s benefit.

  104. @castandlee: re: the Hugo site & visibility.

    When I searched earlier for “worldcon voting membership” the top hit is the page for Hugo voting called “I want to vote.” So far so good. Till you look at the text.

    The 2013 Hugo Awards are administered by Lone Star Con 3, the 2013 World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”). You can vote in the 2013 awards by becoming a member. More information is available on their website.

    That’s not a factor of a 30 minute head-start.

    @Ulrika: “but maximizing the impact on people more likely to actually buy at least supporting memberships in the Worldcon was deemed more important and more beneficial to the Worldcon.”

    I’d be curious about conversion rates that result from the Saturday announcement. It seems to me that a supporting membership, which doesn’t require travel, is something you’d best sell by actually maximizing exposure (since you’re not limited to selling them to people willing/able to travel to a con). The Saturday thing surely is nice for the cons running events on that day, but @castandlee presents evidence even MORE against the Saturday event above:

    there were a whole lot more people watching online both on UStream and during the live coverage of the announcement on the Hugo Awards web site.

    If that’s where the big viewership is then running these things mid-week when people are more likely able to view them would be better. Unless the point is to provide an up for the people running the cons which are not Worldcon, which seems unlikely.

  105. So what’s the over/under on how long until You Know Who starts referring to “Scalzi, the admitted kitten murderer and Stalin masturbater”? =P

  106. The actual point Ulrika, Glenn, and Laurie M. are trying to make is that announcing it over Easter ensures that The Right Sort of Fan gets to hear about them first.

  107. Ulrika

    I live in central London and would therefore be prime Loncon material were it not for the fact that I have health problems which make concrud potentially fatal; for obvious reasons I won’t be attending Eastercon either.

    In the circumstances, a media announcement of the nominees might make me more likely to buy a supporting membership. Given the spectacular PR failure of the proposed host for the Hugos ceremony, a little more understanding of the basic principles might make life easier all round…

  108. As a, relatively new, conrunner (I am sure that even given my little experience in the field some above commenters will vouch for me), and a member of fandom for, oh, my entire life, I get that we want to bow to fandom–spreading the news through fandom as quickly as possible–as the Hugos are a fan award and we don’t want people just willy nilly voting on things. I get it; I really do. I have sat in Business Meetings when we discuss rates and names of memberships and how they play in the mundane world, etc. For the sake of argument, I have been at the head table for some of those.

    BUT (and that’s a big but) we also need to think about how fandom is seen in said mundane world. It’s been talked about on email lists and Facebook pages and we need to consider it. The last few weeks have been rough and, in explaining it to my mundane friends, they just don’t get it except to say, “That IS the stereotype.” We need to kill certain stereotypes of fandom. Especially the one that we are self-centric, unengaging and traditionalists. That is even the stereotype of fandom from those new to fandom.

    One way to do that is to say, look, we have done things this way for umpteen years, but we are open to change, because, even though you’re young or new or both, doesn’t mean your idea isn’t valid.

  109. @donw: As a small aside, while the search you conducted does take you to the “participate” page – which definitely could use updated text – a more basic search for “The Hugo Award” brings their homepage as the primary result, which is fully updated.

  110. I’m a single data point, but I know if it was some time other than Easter Saturday (when I’m usually visiting family), I’d be interested in watching it online. But religious or not, for us that weekend (along with many other holidays) is about being with family and not watching award nominee announcements.

    Although overall, there does seem to be two separate issues forming.

    1) What is the purpose of the Hugos, or more specifically the Hugo nominee announcement? Should we aim for helping con organizers try to sell as many tickets as possible? Or should we try to benefit those who are being nominated? Or something else?

    2) Would announcing it on a different day possibly help BOTH groups (membership sales and authors/publishers)?

    #1 is a matter of debate and has no a priori answer. The only answer to #1 is what we DECIDE is the answer. (Although prior to that is the decision of who the “we” is that gets to decide what the purpose of the Hugo announcement should be.)

    #2, however, seems to be something far more concrete that we could use actual information and that sort of crazy stuff to see if there are options that do serve all interests and make question #1 totally irrelevant (which might be a good thing, since I doubt there will be easy consensus on #1).

    So, does announcing live at conventions Easter weekend benefit all interested parties? Does it only benefit Worldcon membership sales? (Does it even do that?) Would announcing on a different day be able to benefit all interested parties (including Worldcon membership rates)?

    As many others have clearly stated, it sure seems like announcing it before Easter conventions could be seen by a wider audience (if nothing else, I would add my wife and myself – limited data points that we are, but I doubt we are the only ones) allow at least marginally larger media coverage. There are hopes of growing even larger media coverage, but admittedly they are only hopes. But announced a different day, it is possibility. Announced Easter Saturday, there is zero chance of growth in media coverage.

    Then at the convention have special events to openly discuss and debate the nominees, and still allow that “special experience” of those convention attendees. At those events even have “buy your Worldcon membership here” fliers and/or computers.

    Also, from the streaming announcement on (it can be streamed even if it isn’t Easter Saturday), make sure to be clear about supporting memberships, and push those as possibilities along with easy ways to upgrade from supporting to full attending membership. That way get at least a supporting membership in hand as soon as possible (which involves no more commitment than a payment).

    The benefits to publishers and authors are certainly apparent as John has pointed out, including possibly last minute attending of Easter weekend conventions if they are nominated (not necessarily a high likelihood, but possible).

    So, it seems that it is possible by moving the announcement to a different day can benefit both authors/publishers and con organizers, as well as fans attending Easter weekend conventions, and fans not attending Easter weekend conventions, and fans who rarely follow Hugo nominee announcements, but might be slightly more likely to hear about them this way rather than the current way, etc. etc.

    To sum up a WAAAY too long post (sorry, it’s the analytic philosopher in me), Easter Saturday announcements do seem to benefit only a small group whereas announcing on a different day could benefit that same exact group and so many more.

  111. Steve:

    No idea where the data would be. I imagine that the official SF body would know.
    There aren’t that many variables, so shouldn’t be that difficult to do an analysis to figure out the relative weighting of day-of-week announcement, etc.


    Yes, I’ve considered that this is probably part of some long-term brand-building; however, it’s pretty tough to “build” a brand if you keep talking to the same people. Most brand-building strategies usually involve converting awareness into usage (i.e., attendance at Worldcons). I don’t see this in the media planning/announcement. The basic question/hypothesis is: if the population numbers (overall and for ‘SF’ readership) are growing, are your attendance numbers growing similarly/in-step?

    IMO, John’s analysis is spot-on.

  112. @DonW – “there were a whole lot more people watching online both on UStream and during the live coverage of the announcement on the Hugo Awards web site.

    If that’s where the big viewership is then running these things mid-week when people are more likely able to view them would be better.”

    But where are they going to broadcast from? Conventions already have the equipment and the room available to handle a broadcast; who takes care of this mid-week?

    @lumi – “On the other hand, people who go to cons, but not that particular weekend, and people who are fans but don’t often participate in fandom, well, a higher media profile for the Hugo noms seems like it would make it more likely for them to consider a membership.”

    I think the first group already knows about the Hugos, or only cares about their own con and so might be be excluded from consideration. With regard to the second group, if they don’t participate in fandom, deciding to go to Worldcon is a high hurdle, especially since it moves from place to place each year and is more than likely to be a significant distance away, with all the expenses that entails.

    This group _might_ buy a supporting membership, if the existence of same were publicized by the administering committee, which would help the cash flow of that convention at a time when it is most useful; money that comes in at the end, right before the con, doesn’t help, because it’s hard to find a way to spend it on convention activities. You can only add so much to the con suite budget, especially if the hotel is providing the food. Most of those unneeded funds end up being passed along, which is good for succeeding Worldcons, but still doesn’t do much to get the supporting member into the habit of attending.

    @kenmarable -“for others like me, every year Hugo season is instead launched with arguing and complaints and name calling, after which I know I should go check sites from a few days ago to see who the actual nominees are.”

    By now, you ought to be able to start looking for info on the day of the announcement, if you’re really concerned about the nominees. As has been noted, the Easter weekend has been the date for a few years now.

    @Steve Halter – “It would certainly be nice if nominees would flock to cons over the weekend and could then be feted but that seems a tad random and inconvenient for them since they don’t know until that Tuesday that they would be nominated.”

    They know sooner than that. The Hugo Administrator is required to use their best efforts to contact each (potential) nominee and get the nominee’s acceptance to being on the ballot. There have been cases where a nominee has declined, either because they did not consider the work worthy, because they had other work nominated and did not want to compete with themselves, or for other reasons. It still doesn’t mean that they could get to a con where the announcement is being made, but it’s less of a spur of the moment decision than you think.

  113. Fandom is historically rather counter-cultural, and in particular rather non-Christian (and not family-centered). I rather like this ongoing recognition of that. But then of course I’m a regular at one of the Easter conventions where the announcements have lately been getting made. I’ll tell you it certainly gets the Hugo nominees a LOT more attention locally than they got before.

    In fact, that’s a point; this Easter weekend notification was begun *as a marketing effort*, and it seems to be good for that.

  114. Todd Dashoff:That’s true, I had forgotten about the pre-notification. That would give them more of an opportunity to be somewhere public if they wanted.

  115. I spend a big chunk of my pocket money on SFF books and games but I didn’t go to Capclave when it was *literally* across the street from my home. Do you ever wonder why you can’t draw gamers over to your patch? Mass Effect is as much an epic SFF work as any book series. Have you ever heard gamers discuss game worldbuilding and character building? They are Your Kind of person. Gamers might see Hugos coverage in Rock Paper Shotgun et all. Getting gamers interested in SFF books would be good for the SFF publishing industry, and what’s good for the industry is good for fandom. Dismissing gamers as mundane and unworthy is bad for your cons. Mutatis mutandi for non-fan SFF readers.

    (I also think it’s a mistake to charge USD200 to vote for the Hugos, but that’s another topic.)

  116. @donw: You’ve got me there, and I mean me personally, because I wrote much of that page. You’ve pointed out the perils of having a static page that really needs to be updated annually. Thank to you pointing this out, I’ve rewritten the page so that it doesn’t need to be rewritten every year and instead points people to worldcon.org to find the current year’s Worldcon. It can’t be any more precise than that because every Worldcon is different and every Worldcon can decide to run their Hugo Awards a different way as long as it’s within the WSFS rules.

    Having said that, as others pointed out to you, if you simply go to http://www.thehugowards.org/ (and that’s the first listing I get at Google when I search for “Hugo Award”), the very first post (as of when I write this) is 2014 Hugo Award Nominations Open.

    And besides that, I was responding to an accusation that the results of the nominations and awards were not being posted in a timely manner. But I am also aware, based on painful personal experience, that people expect the nominations/results to be posted instantaneously. And I really mean that. I’ve gotten static because they’ve looked at THA.org within seconds of the end of the ceremony and the results weren’t there.

    (I’m not sure people realize that pushing that hard can lead to the even-less desirable result of posting results before the ceremony is over or nominations before the embargo has lifted. We accidentally did the latter once — not intentional; a technical mistake I can explain if you really want to know — and the amount of trouble we got was large, to the extent that it was years before a Hugo Administrator would trust us with the embargoed information every again, and to the extent that the Administrator on whose watch it was may still think we did it on purpose, not because of the internet version of an “open microphone.”)

  117. What I’d try:

    Announce the Hugo nominations on the Tuesday before Easter. Include among the follow-up contact info people at the various Easter weekend cons, for anyone who wants to use the local angle in reporting.

    At the cons, instead of announcement panels, have audience-participation discussion panels, specifically about the nominations and what people think of them. Include any Hugo nominated authors on the panels, but make the point of it lively discussion, recommendations, talking up the books, showing off the artwork, etc. There’s always a conversation about the nominations, so make it part of the con fun, and get the momentum of the buildup to Worldcon started that way.

    [Yes, it’ll generate a lot of “they shoulda picked XXXX instead,” as they always do, but that sort of thing is more fun in person, and if you want to have something buried on Saturday, why not that?]

    It’d probably get more press, and might well get more people there for the panels, to boot.

  118. @Manny: We don’t charge USD200 to vote for the Hugo Awards. That’s how much it costs to buy the level of membership that lets you attend the Worldcon. You do not have to attend Worldcon to vote on the Hugo Awards. If you only want to have the level of membership that gives you voting rights in the World Science Fiction Society without actually attending the organization’s annual conference, it costs (about) USD40. (And BTW, WSFS changed its rules in the past few years in a way that allowed the reduction of that “basic membership” cost from about $60 to about $40, and the first Worldcon allowed to do so by the rules change immediately dropped the price to the lower level.)

    The Hugo Awards are presented by the World Science Fiction Society, which is effectively a club with between five and ten thousands members. You have to be a member of the club to vote. To be a member, you have to buy a membership and pay membership dues. The membership comes with certain membership rights, one of which happens to be the right to nominate and to vote upon the Hugo Awards. And furthermore, the members of the club get to make the rules about their club. What is so wrong about that?

    With no sarcasm at all, I very much want anyone who thinks that it’s unfair that WSFS requires that you be a member of WSFS to vote on WSFS’s awards to set up their own awards that are fair by whatever standard they think is fair. As long as you don’t call them “Hugo Awards” or use any of WSFS’s registered service marks (like the rocket logo or the design of the trophy), WSFS does not care.

  119. Perhaps the way to get maximum publicity is to announce the way we do now but get Christopher Priest to publish a rant against the nominees on the Monday.

    (Not meant unpleasantly. Chris got me into fandom, but the man does do World class rants.)

  120. Imagine if Jonathan Ross was tweeting the names to his 3.65 million followers. It wouldn’t matter when the nominations come out.

    Maybe the organisers should invite him back.

  121. Let me imagine myself at an Easter-weekend convention. Which of these programming items would I be more interested in?

    1) A live announcement of the Hugo nominees.

    2) A discussion of the recently-announced Hugo nominees.

    #1 is very much the sort of thing where, sure, okay, it might be fun. But I’m not going to hurry back from dinner for it, or cut short a cool conversation in the bar. After all, the odds are good that I haven’t read the majority of the nominees anyway (because there’s always a percentage of them that aren’t the kind of thing I normally read — for starters, I read much more fantasy than SF), so there isn’t much gain to be had from hearing them announced live rather than finding out about them a couple of hours or days later.

    #2 would vary from year to year, but generally speaking is something I’m much more likely to attend. Listening to people talk about the nominees is a more content-rich experience to begin with. It would also increase the odds that I seek them out and read them, and having done that, I am more likely to feel strongly enough about one or more titles to think about buying a supporting membership and voting.

    Of course, you can do both of these things: announcements on Saturday, discussion on Sunday. But the discussion is likely to be more substantive if people have had more than 24 hours to refresh their memories about the nominated works.

    So that’s the con-side perspective, at least as I see it. The non-con perspective is as John has outlined: by putting some effort into raising the profile of the Hugos and Worldcon among the people who aren’t already con-goers, there is a distinct chance that you can grow the voter base (via supporting memberships), grow the con itself (probably a longer-term effect), benefit the nominees (via an improved publicity opportunity), and generally do more than preach to the choir.

    In other words: yes. By all means make this fun for the active fans . . . but don’t abandon the chance to create more active fans in the process.

  122. Laurie Mann – thats odd because the publishers seem to have money to fly authors around on book tours. Why could they not be induced to support PR for their authors? Particularly since they would be leveraging their portion with national attention to the entire genre.

    But lets say some or all of them can’t be induced. How about a video conference? They could still do a reading, maybe a short Q&A or something to promote their works.

  123. @Frankly — Publishers sometimes have money to fly authors around on book tours. It is by no means a splurge they can spring for at the drop of a hat. They support PR for their authors when and where they have a reasonable hope that the cost of doing so will be more than repaid by increased profits down the road; buying tickets a couple of weeks ahead of the event tips that particular scale in an unfavorable direction.

    Telepresence events are an option, but not one every author would want to do. Personally, I kind of hate being on webcam, though I might suck it up and cope if I had a good enough reason.

  124. @kastandlee If a lifelong reader of SFF who reads Whatever, Making Light, and Boing Boing every day doesn’t understand the difference between convention attendance and membership in a group they weren’t aware *had* actual memberships, that’s a sign of the problem. Hugos a WSFS award? Cool. But shouldn’t you want to attract more members? I didn’t know the group existed apart from the conventions, so I never even had a passing notion to seek it out. What activities or benefits does the WSFS have besides Worldcon? Does it have local chapters? What would I do to join? Did you really expect me to dig this out of a web site dedicated to a convention I know I won’t attend? Shouldn’t you put that information where I might see it and not expect me to discover it by some kind of magic aetheric ESP transmission? Wider publicity of the Hugo nominations would be a hook to hang it on. I am interested if I can be involved without worrying about rules like how naked you can be at the costume party or whether $Author is a known lech to be avoided.

  125. “The actual point Ulrika, Glenn, and Laurie M. are trying to make is that announcing it over Easter ensures that The Right Sort of Fan gets to hear about them first.”

    I would like to apologize in advance for being the Wrong Sort of Fan. The sort that spends time reading and writing, rather than paying attention to some random convention I’ve never heard of and will likely never attend. The sort who might go to a convention if it has a guest I’m interested in or if a group of fen friends are also attending. The sort that has spent time discussing writing styles and ideas with various authors and publishers at events to get a better idea of how the industry works and how the authors work. I am sorry that is not the sort of fan you think should be part of Your Sort of Fandom. Given that those even less casual than I am are definitely the Wrong Sort of Fan, perhaps it is not surprising that Your Sort of Fandom has been atrophying for decades. As with everything else, there are two choices: adapt or die. I’d prefer fandom to adapt. So far, it is not.

  126. I’m pretty sure no one here wants to exclude anybody.

    Publicity = good
    Fan involvement = good
    Authors & publishers making money = good
    Fun = good

    Exactly how to maximize these things is a fine discussion. There are fans who don’t go to any conventions, fans who go to all sorts of conventions and any stage in between. There are fans who care about awards and fans who don’t. There are fans who don’t know about any of these things but would like to–good to get word to them.

  127. @manny: Beware of generalizing too much about cons. At least two of Boston’s large regional cons (Boskone and Arisia) have large and active gaming rooms — both board games and electronic.

    (On size: Arisia this year hit its membership cap of 3650. That’s a fraction of the size of our regional Anime con; Anime Boston has pulled in over 20,000 people the last few years. But it’s at least comparable to Worldcon attendance, which seems to be typically around 4,000 to 5,000 for Worldcons in the US, and somewhat less for those overseas.)

  128. John, I’m finding it hard to address your points as it feels rather than you’re asserting your professional experience – which I absolutely respect – but not giving comparable weighting to the people within Worldcon who’ve actually been running the press interactions etc over the years. When I paraphrased (which is what I was doing) the historic (pre-live announcement) situation as we issued by email and had little impact, your answer was rather dismissive. Given that this was pre-social media, I’m not sure what you think people could have done beyond publishing to the website and circulating to the well-prepared media distribution list (there is a distribution list which most Worldcons share as a starting point, it has about 150 outlets on it including mainstream and genre – the mainstream mostly just get the Hugo stuff and a handful of others).

    I’m not asking you to list suggestions of what they could have done differently – I’m just pointing out that I personally always give weight to specific experience above general experience. Perhaps we would be better to move to a different date, but I’ve attended or supported 5 of these live announcements now and they do have something about them which I think it would be a shame to lose. I’m sorry the discussion isn’t giving more recognition to that when balancing the scales.

    For the rest of the thread: I’m disappointed (although perhaps not surprised given the post-Ross temperature in the community) by the amount of “destructive engagement” (if there is such a thing, but you know what I mean…) in the comments. Generally, people are well intentioned and the people running conventions are no exception, and have done what they believe to be right. I’m increasingly demoralised by the determination of all sides in many current discussions to simply dismiss everyone’s opinion as of minimal value and indeed misguided.

    Time for me to disengage.

  129. Clarification on the cost of participating in the Hugos. Right now, Supporting Memberships typically cost $40 (last year was higher but we’ve made a change to the constitution since then and I think $40 is what we’ll see for the next couple of years). The Hugos allow nominations to be made by the members of the past, current, and next future Worldcon.

    Consequence: if you buy a supporting membership every THIRD year – i.e. spend $13/year – then you can nominate EVERY YEAR and vote in the final ballot every third year (only the current Worldcon’s members get to participate in the final ballot).

    If you want to nominate AND vote AND get the Packet every year, you need to support every year – cost of $40/year, and the Packet alone has a nominal value of at least twice that.

  130. Colin Harris:

    “John, I’m finding it hard to address your points as it feels rather than you’re asserting your professional experience – which I absolutely respect – but not giving comparable weighting to the people within Worldcon who’ve actually been running the press interactions etc over the years.”

    Understood, and I definitely don’t want to minimize the experience of conrunners (having worked with and deeply appreciated their expertise in putting together Nebula weekend. With that said, I do find this particular thing to be blind spot, and the answers I’m getting out of conrunners here for doing it are not particularly satisfying to me, based on my own experience.

  131. @Robert Thau: How would I know that there are SFF conventions that welcome gamers instead of saying bad things about them? If your goal is to attract more people to fandom and conventions, you need to reach out, relate to the public.

  132. Umm, I doubt the Saturday announcements affect the number of people attending Worldcon that much. Most folks I know, and I myself when I attended Worldcons, usually started planning – and saving – to attend two or three years in advance. If you are lower middle class or less, it’s a darned expensive proposition. Supporting memberships, perhaps. But frankly, the folks who are attending Easter weekend conventions probably already know if they are going, or are planning to buy supporting memberships; a lot may have already bought them. So I really don’t think that announcing the nominees on Easter Saturday is going to affect Worldcon membership numbers that much.

    Trying to get word out to those fans, and media, who AREN’T already convention-goers is where you could get more folks interested, and perhaps attending. What percentage of fandom goes to conventions at present? 1 out of 1,000 fans? 1 out of 10,000? How many of those fans know anything about the Hugo, other than seeing the “Hugo Award Winner” or “Hugo Nominee” on a book cover? This is a way to reach out to those fans who aren’t all that aware of World Con, or, frankly, any sf/f cons.

    And announcements don’t have to just be to the ‘mainstream media.’ World con coms need to establish Facebook pages, etc. to help put the word out. Maybe put the announcement of nominees on YouTube or something. There are lots of PR folks out there who are quite skilled in pushing internet and social media outlets to get your story out.

    In my opinion, in general, if sf&f conventions need to start reaching out to the fans who have never gone to a convention before, rather than market mostly to those who are already con goers. If they don’t, that ‘graying of fandom” folks are complaining about – along with the complaints about new readers / “Get off my lawn!” – is going to happen, and sf&f cons will get smaller and smaller, while new fans go to gaming cons, anime cons, and so on. Which, as a long time member of fandom (my first Worldcon was back in the 1980’s or so, and I started going to local (SF and other TV SF mostly) cons in the mid 1970s while in college), I would surely hate to see.

  133. The thing is not only will the non-fan media not pick it up, if you are a fan but don’t do cons, or even just don’t do cons this Easter it will require effort to pick up what the announcement was.

    In Europe/N. America you are in the middle of a long bank holiday weekend, people will be doing their other hobbies (shock!) or spending time with their families. So they are much less likely than usual to be online. I certainly won’t be checking the web over that weekend, so unless the Hugo nominations make the BBC headlines (hint: they would have to be Jesus rises to do that on Easter weekend) then I would have to bother to go to the Worldcon website or wade back through 2-3 days of online chatter to find out who was actually nominated.

    Therefore the only nominations I will notice without effort will be if someone whose blog/twitter I follow is nominated and they mention it later. Good news for our esteemed host and a few others, less good news if I want to find new authors.

    This might make me The Wrong Sort Of Fan, but there’s a hell of a lot more of the Wrong Sort than the Right Sort and that’s before you start trying to get word outside the SFF online community.

    I suppose the question is whether the Hugo nomination announcement is to serve the con-going community or to serve the wider SFF audience, the authors themselves and promotion of SFF to the wider media.

  134. Tangential query – for those in the know, does the awards committee reach out to library associations? I can imagine new fans being lured in by nice shiny displays.

  135. Lumi – most Worldcons have a library liaison and arrange for publicity drops and sometimes for attending authors to do events in libraries while the show is in town. There have also been active Book Drives where Worldcons have worked with publishers to support libraries and get more and more diverse genre fiction into stock, see e.g. http://renovationsf.org/book-drive.php.

  136. @SFReader – “it’s pretty tough to “build” a brand if you keep talking to the same people” – Especially over the long term, you almost certainly aren’t talking to the same people — that’s kind of the point. You see a far larger percentage of new convention-going fans starting to attend conventions at local or regional conventions than at Worldcon. So as new people flow into a regional, it will still be new to them. And a fannish generation is generally reckoned to be seven years — that’s folk wisdom, not demography, but my observations suggest there’s something to it. And to the extent that it’s right, that’s a largely entirely new cohort every seven years — though realistically some of that turnover happens each year — so if you want to catch those people during the window when they do attend conventions, then building the brand every year is just what you want to do.

    Look, I’m not really advocating for this view, I’m just telling y’all what the thinking was as I understood it: there was a conscious choice to focus P/R efforts on the people the planners thought would be most likely to be moved to act on them, rather than just building mindshare in the general populace. People who think that prioritizing of available people points is wrong, or who have concrete ways to do both with the same available resources, should probably consider joining a Worldcon committee and doing the work to make their ideas a reality.

    Still waiting for Scalzi to answer my question, tho.

  137. “I do find this particular thing to be [a] blind spot” — which particular thing? That announcing on Easter has a popular media downside? That’s something they already know. They made a conscious choice to prioritize other considerations. That they could prioritize convention PR and major media PR at the same time? Maybe they don’t believe that — have you got concrete suggestions as to how to do it with available resources? Are you volunteering?

  138. Ulrika:

    “which particular thing?”

    Ulrika, I’m very sorry, but it’s not my fault you seem to be having problems following the conversation; most people do seem to be getting it. Please go back and try reading again. Maybe you’ll be able to follow it better.

    Beyond this, it’s obvious they think differently about this than I do; I don’t find the arguments for I’ve seen here for it particularly persuasive. You may or may not think that matters.

    “Not in any comment addressed to me you didn’t.”

    Wrong again! And thus we get back to the reading issue. Mind you, it might not be an answer you liked or found sufficient, but I don’t see how that is my problem.

    Beyond that, Ulrika, I think you’re being argumentative to be argumentative at this point. If you don’t have a point to make other than “well, they disagree with you, so there,” then perhaps you should move along. If you don’t wish to move along, you should at least know I don’t plan to talk to you much longer; your general hostility makes me weary.

  139. kastandlee: As the person who does most of the maintenance for the Hugo Awards Web Site, I’m a little put out at your statement “…I swear every time I go looking for it, the first place I find [the Hugo Award results] is here rather than (I don’t know) the Hugo award site.” We have worked very hard to have the results up within minutes of the conclusion of the Hugo Awards ceremony […]

    (Also bear in mind that the person posting the final [Hugo nominations] results to the web site is also busily covering the ceremony live online, and there are only so many things I can do at once.)

    But you shouldn’t have to do all this at once. Why hasn’t the website’s announcement post already been written and scheduled for publication days before the ceremony happens? After all, the embargoed press releases have been sent out beforehand, why not set up the post at that time? If the yearly conrunners aren’t cc’ing the Hugo Awards website webmaster on the embargoed press releases, then why not?

  140. Since there are people who are comparing the Hugos to other literary awards, it is worth noting that the Giller Prize has already announced three of its four key dates for 2014. The long list will announced on a Tuesday in September; the short list on a Monday in October, and the winner on a Monday in November.

    If you could take lessons from the Canadian literary establishment on how to get mainstream media coverage, you probably should.

  141. Two things:

    1) I am now thinking about what a strategic marketing & communications plan could entail for Worldcon and the Hugos. What a great opportunity. It’s absolutely drool-worthy.

    2) I’ve also been trying to come up with a bon mot about how, because the news media isn’t going to run the press release sent out on that Saturday, then it becomes “PassoverCon” but it’s just not working. JANE? A little help?

  142. @tigtog: The reasons are complex. Every year’s Hugo administrator is different. Every Worldcon has a different way of looking at how to do their jobs. Not every Hugo Administrator is willing to even issue embargoed press releases. Sometimes if they do, they’ll give it to you, say, just before the ceremony starts, and inasmuch as it’s almost certainly not going to be in the format you want it to be (so it’s consistent with the format of every past announcement), you need time to reformat it. Except that if you only got it just before the ceremony starts, you’re busy actually covering the ceremony and don’t have time to rebuild the announcement on the fly, so you don’t get the formatted announcement posted until after everyone else has posted it higgledy-piggledy without concern for formatting (because, after all, they aren’t consider the Website of Record where people will come looking for the data in the future).

    And then there’s the matter that for several years, as I mentioned, those of us who run THA.org for WSFS were blacklisted because we accidentally released the embargoed nominations through the internet equivalent of “we didn’t know that microphone was turned on” and those administrator who did talk to each other decided we couldn’t be trusted. (I can sympathize with their position.)

    So in fact, it’s extremely rare for us to get the results with anywhere near the amount of time it would take to get them into the form we need them. It’s a by-product of the extremely fragmented way Worldcons are run. As someone who has been working intensely on them for more than twenty years, it amazes me how many thing actually come off fairly smoothly.

    I think there are people unfamiliar with the details who assume that there’s a big ivory tower with WORLD SCIENCE FICTION SOCIETY engraved at the top, and a staff of people who sit there running all Worldcons and making everything happen. It doesn’t work that way. Don’t think of Worldcon as a single convention run by a single organization. Think of it as a 5000-person one-shot start-up convention held every year by a different group of people, with each group having about two years to figure out how they want to do things, with no rehearsal time and no do-overs, and when they’re done, they strike the tent, shut down the organization, and walk away. Even when you have relative continuity like the membership of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, you still have to start over every year with every committee and build up the links necessary to get the job done because it’s a brand new team of people this year.

    Yes, it’s a bit crazy. Nobody with any sense would have designed it this way. But then, Worldcon wasn’t designed. It just sort of happened.

  143. @ChryssF: Draw up the plan. Then try to convince someone to fund it. Speaking as a member (not the Chair) of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, I’m interested — but there’s no money to pay for it and not enough people willing to do the work most of the time. Contact me through the Hugo Awards Web Site (contact address is on the site) if you’re serious and willing to put in the work.

  144. This reminds me of when Google announced their mini search appliance on the same morning as the Steve Jobs keynote at MacWorld. The Google news was totally buried in the press. Simply incompetent marketing.

    Especially because the “Mac Mini” was announced by Steve, so even the word “mini” was overshadowed.

  145. I am a career journalist. Important news will be covered whenever it happens or whenever we find out about it. One of my editors used to say, “It isn’t news till we put it in the paper.” Any good journalist knows how to put a second-day lede on a piece or present it so the news is fresh, and we assume that the majority of our readers are our readers, so we don’t worry about old news if it’s interesting.

    The idea that news will become more interesting because of the day it’s released is a myth that marketing types sell to gullible clients.

    The Hugo Awards in and of themselves are never going to be interesting to mainstream media, no matter what day they come out on. What might make them of interest is a relationship between the nominees and a medium’s perceived audience. Would I ever have covered John Scalzi’s nomination for my Chicago papers? Only when the Worldcon was in Chicago, if then, and it would have been a minor bit at the end of a piece about the convention organizers. But Chicagoland resident Fred Pohl’s Fan Writer nomination? Absolutely!

    If you’re not getting the press you believe you deserve, then you are either targeting the wrong media or you haven’t made yourself interesting enough. Reporters cover people, not awards. The Oscars get the press they do not because of their status, but because the public wants to read about celebrities. So from a media point of view, giving up the splashy Easter announcement won’t help and where it matters most, it may hurt.

    Where does it matter most? As a three-time Hugo nominee, the people I want to get the buzz are the people who’ll join WSFS and vote. The fans at the Easter conventions, and the friends they pass the word to will influence who gets a rocket far more than any random reader of the New York Times.

    The Hugos, by the way, are not an industry award and never have been. They’re a community’s honors to its members and others it admires. And the members and the people who make the awards happen get to decide. However aging and stagnating sf fandom may be, the fact that this thread exists at all is proof of its impact.

    The industry award is the Nebulas. I’m unaware that releasing the nominations on a Tuesday raised their profile very much. Maybe SFWA ought to do away with the Nebula Banquet and announce the awards on a Tuesday, too.

  146. @kastandlee: As the person who does most of the maintenance for the Hugo Awards Web Site, I’m a little put out at your statement “…I swear every time I go looking for it, the first place I find [the Hugo Award results] is here rather than (I don’t know) the Hugo award site.” We have worked very hard to have the results up within minutes of the conclusion of the Hugo Awards ceremony, so if by “first” you mean that John managed to press enter thirty seconds ahead of me, I guess you’re right, but if you mean that the results don’t appear on the Hugo site until weeks later, I don’t know what gave you that idea.

    My apologies. I was being unrelatedly crabby and snarked more than was warranted.

    I know a little bit about the complexities of running live events in the internet age, and I don’t blame you for not having the results up instantaneously. I was speaking more of trying to find the results after the fact — I don’t think I’ve ever paid attention to the announcement of the nominees live.

    Checking now I find thehugoawards.org as the top or second Google hit for most combinations of “hugo {nominees,winners} YEAR” going back to 2010 or so. (Whatever doesn’t even make the first page of results in a lot of these.) I have vague memories of struggling to find past nominees some time in 2009 or so, and winding up lost like @DonW trying to first find the right convention and then wherever they squirreled the award information away and so on, and giving up and searching Whatever. It looks like that was right around the time thehugoawards.org came online, so obviously things have improved a lot because of that. I’m still working off habits formed before it had substantial Google-juice.

    Yes, there are several Easter weekend conventions: Norwescon and Minicon (off the top of my head). There’s also SwanCon in Perth, Australia. In fact, it’s a fairly busy fannish convention weekend. I’ve been involved with a Worldcon bid that did a “24-hour party,” at five separate Easter weekend conventions, handing off the “party baton” to the next convention down the line, thanks to conventions in the US, UK and Australia.

    Neat! (Minicon! I have heard good things about it. I’d like to make it one of these years.)

    Although. Five conventions is a busy weekend fandom-wise, but there aren’t any conventions that weekend within a day’s drive of anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard, California and parts west, or… anywhere south of Iowa. Maybe the UK and Australia Easter conventions reach a bigger swath of their respective fannish populations, but from the US perspective it feels to me like trying to fit the Hugos’ publicity schedule around a couple regional cons is doing a disservice to the… two-thirds, at least?… of even the fannish population who might be interested, to say nothing of the general public.

  147. kastandlee, thanks for the explanation. It sounds like you have been engaged in Extreme Cat Herding for a very long time.

    It nonetheless strikes me that very few people would see it as unreasonable for the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee to insist that they received at least the same access to embargoed press releases as the general media, and that whether they passed such a press release on to the webmasters of their own official website to schedule for publication following the end of the embargo should be nobody’s business but their own.

  148. Leah A. Zeldes:

    “One of my editors used to say, ‘It isn’t news till we put it in the paper.'”

    Which is a sentiment that wasn’t true before the advent of the Internet, thanks to radio and television, and certainly isn’t true now that information metastasizes on Twitter and Facebook at a rapid rate. That editor had a rather too high opinion of the primacy of the newspaper — an opinion I understand, having gotten my start at a paper, but even so — and it makes me wonder what else he or she got wrong.

    “The idea that news will become more interesting because of the day it’s released is a myth that marketing types sell to gullible clients.”

    Also wrong and perhaps disingenuous as you’ve phrased it. News is more interesting on a particular day because of it’s freshness (the longer a story is out there the less interesting it becomes), because of the available newshole for the story, and because of to whom those PR people pitch. If that PR person knows to pitch a story to an arts reporter on Monday because Monday is the day the arts reporter starts planning out her book column, for example, then it is more interesting to that writer on that day.

    I was a professional film critic for several years; if you pitched me story for the Friday paper on Wednesday afternoon you were already too late, because the Friday entertainment section went to bed at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon. Pitch me a story on Saturday and you’d get my phone mail. Those stories were no longer interesting, because I had no time for them.

    So, no, to suggest that timing a story is not important or is merely a tool to hull the gullible is flat-out incorrect.

    “The Hugo Awards in and of themselves are never going to be interesting to mainstream media”

    It’s curious, then, why the news of my winning the Hugo for Best Novel last year was carried by the New York Times, the New Yorker and the Guardian, all of whom one might reasonably define as members of the mainstream media. Please note that I am a resident of neither New York nor the UK, so the assertion that there has to be an immediate relationship between the nominee and the news media is incorrect on its face — although my local newspaper, the Dayton Daily News, did also cover the win.

    (That said, it’s a shame you’ve dismissed covering a nomination of mine for a Chicagoland newspaper, considering that I have substantial local ties to the area, being a graduate of the University of Chicago. When I was a stringer for the Sun-Times, way back when, that would have been enough for me to at least pitch the story; a stringer generally knows not to leave an opportunity to get paid on the table.)

    “As a three-time Hugo nominee, the people I want to get the buzz are the people who’ll join WSFS and vote.”

    As a nine-time Hugo nominee (and three-time winner), I see no conflict at all between getting the “buzz” out to potential voters and to the larger media universe, to people who may, say, also buy my work with the implicit recommendation a Hugo nomination provides. Your three nominations come in fan categories, which is awesome; I have two nominations in fan categories myself. Allow me to suggest to you that your opinion that outreach only to the existing fans is a sufficient practice belies a fan-category strategy; those of us with nominations in professional categories as well may see the value of letting a larger audience know about the award, because it may help to drive interest (and sales!) to our work.

    “The Hugos, by the way, are not an industry award and never have been.”

    No, you’re wrong again here, too. As noted above, the Hugos, fan-run and fan-awarded though they may be, are de jure the pre-eminent industry awards. They are recognized by publishers, by readers and by, yes, mainstream media as the most important award in the genre; there’s a reason why when someone one wins one, the news of it gets plastered onto a book cover. Worldcons have for decades benefited from and played up that de jure status, so I would suggest it’s more than a bit disingenuous to argue otherwise, for the sake of scoring a rhetorical point. Speaking as someone who is in the industry, I know how it perceives the award.

    It’s also more than a little bit disingenuous to suggest the Hugos are not an industry award when a significant chunk of the people voting for the awards, fans though they may be, are also and equally a part of the industry of creating and publishing science fiction. Unless you would like to argue with a straight face that there is no overlap between fan and pro in the genre.

    To be clear, and speaking as the immediate former president of SFWA, I agree that the Nebula is also an industry award for our genre, and a high-stature award at that. It’s not an either/or formulation. However, how SFWA promotes its awards is neither here nor there to how Worldcons can and should promote them.

    In sum: Excepting the Nebula being an industry award, I don’t think I agree with you on much of anything you’ve said here, Leah.

  149. What I see in all the pro-announce-on-Saturday comments is a continuation of the all-too-frequent “this is mine, mine, MINE” fan attitude which wants SF to conform exactly to its own preferences, to which anything else (YA SF, manga, anime, etc etc etc) is not REAL SF, and which does not care whether other fans are excluded — in fact, it feels more SPECIAL because other fans are excluded.

    I am mystified as to why each and every one of you would not place the importance of raising the profile of SF and the Hugos with the world in general over your own little “SQUEE! We get to own the announcement at our little Easter weekend con!!!” party. :-/

  150. As Chair of last year’s UK Eastercon, EightSquared, and as a non-typical conrunner, author-more-than-fan, who knows something about PR, I’d have been absolutely delighted to see the nominees announced ahead of time, and to put panel discussions about them into the programme –

    rather than have our planning forced to work around an event that *had* to happen at an inconvenient but fixed time and came with a whole list of requirements, some of which our convention was not well placed to meet for very good reasons to do with the technical infrastructure of our venue and other priorities in our scheduling (Doctor Who…)

    Explaining in detail why for instance, no, we wouldn’t be livestreaming the announcements took up successive rounds of email debate when I could have very much have used the time dealing with other things – but evidently a simple ‘no, we won’t be doing that’ was not acceptable.

  151. There have been points in history at which 10am Eastern on a Tuesday was a great time to announce something you didn’t want to notice. There was a minor political scandal in the UK when a government PR person, Jo Moore, emailed “this looks like a great day to bury bad news” at almost exactly 3pm local (10am Eastern) on 11 September 2001. She had to resign.

  152. Looking around a little for some data, I found this email marketing study from Experian:

    It seems to indicate that email on weekends has a higher open and click through rate. Possibly because of lower volumes of email.

    Here is a site that gathered 6 different studies:

    Each study seems to come to some different results. Looking through some of the other reports, Tuesday is perceived by marketers to be the best day and accordingly has the highest volume of email.
    Many of the studies indicate that results can vary quite a lot by the intended audience. Unsurprisingly, there weren’t any studies targeted at the email behavior of SF fans.
    It would be an interesting exercise to actually do a survey of Worldcon members as to why or why not they attended a con or voted or did not vote for the Hugo. This could be compared to a survey of a likely target audience of potential Hugo voters ( for example, whatever readers or tor.com members, etc) and factors that influenced their decisions.

  153. I think, given the way that SFF has gone so mainstream over the last 15 years or so, the Hugos (and the Nebulas, for that matter) could be positioned, through a well-thought-out, big-picture-focused, long-term PR plan, as much, much more prestigious and important than they currently are. Perhaps we take them for granted. Perhaps we aren’t thinking big enough. SFF has arrived in the mainstream culture. It’s huge. Who better to be its experts, its tastemakers, its arbiters, than the winners of and the voters for these awards? We longtime geeks are at the core of this huge cultural phenomenon. Our tastes, our sense of history, are important. These awards are one sign of that. I think there’s tons of potential here to take these awards to the next level; to assert our expert status, if you will, as the long-time keepers of the SFF flame.

    Being knowledgeable and expert doesn’t, however, necessarily mean being exclusionary. Welcoming new fans, getting them involved at whatever level, is part of the deal.

    (I, too, was a career journalist before getting into teaching and am also a writer. I also freelanced in PR for a while.)

  154. I concur. John is right! As a marketer in charge of press releases, I was told never ever release information on a Friday or Saturday. Monday or Tuesday was optimal. And it was reflected in our ticket sales. Our exposure was so much greater and newspapers thanked me as they could produce stories that would hit newspapers on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays. Fridays are big newspaper reading days-lots of people subscribe to Friday news, but if you want something IN that paper, you hand it over on Tuesday. Buzz happens during the week. It doesn’t happen on weekends. And the only reason I would market on twitter on weekends was to attempt to keep conversation going for a Monday performance. Easter weekend is a dead zone for releasing info on anything other than a church passion play.

    Also, who is putting cons on Easter Weekend? I suppose you can get a great deal on hotel convention venues—everyone else who might want them will be at church. But really? Sigh.

  155. 1.

    The Hugo Awards in and of themselves are never going to be interesting to mainstream media

    Then why does The Guardian have an article about the 1938 Retro Hugos, no less?

    Which, by the way, states positively that the “short list” will be announced on Easter Saturday. I don’t know if the LonCon 3 Hugo team has fixed that date already and told The Guardian, or if Ms. Flood, who wrote that article, is assuming that will be the date based on past announcements.

  156. I started reading SF in my early teens, close to 40 years ago. I knew almost straightaway that the Hugo and Nebula awards were Big Things. Eight years ago, I had my first story published in a pro-rate magazine, so theoretically I have an interest in awards from both sides of the coin now, reader and writer.

    And about two years ago I finally found out how the Hugo Award actually works.

    That says something about how it’s possible to be a consumer and producer of SFF content without having any idea of what “fandom” is or how it works. I finally attended my first con in 2011 and I may manage to get to another this year. I quite like cons in theory but the expense is horrendous for me right now (and wasn’t even priority spending when I did have a well-paying job).

    If WorldCons and the Hugo Awards want more involvement then they really need better outreach. Explaining the “Packet” mentioned up thread would be a great start. I honestly still have no idea what it actually is. If it IS worth well over the $40 it costs then it’s much more interesting than “yay, I can pay forty bucks, not go to a convention, and vote for a bunch of things”. Which, y’know… not that tempting.

  157. Not every Hugo Administrator is willing to even issue embargoed press releases. Sometimes if they do, they’ll give it to you, say, just before the ceremony starts, and inasmuch as it’s almost certainly not going to be in the format you want it to be (so it’s consistent with the format of every past announcement), you need time to reformat it.

    @castandlee, I appreciate the work you do (including updating that page I mentioned) but I am sorry, what is described above borders on cuckoocrazypants.

    If the Hugos have any wish to get the level of attention they deserve, they need to step up their press release effort. I had wondered about it when John wrote this post initially but it wasn’t until Leah Zelde’s claim about news age that I went and looked.

    So I went over to my PR Newswire account and searched for every press release from Jan 1 2012 through Dec 31 2013 that had the phrase “hugo award.”

    Three hits. In two calendar years, and none of the mentions attributable to the Hugo process itself; all three were about the subject of the press release’s nomination or win of a past Hugo. And only one of those linked out to more Hugo information, and when it did it linked to SFSite, presumably because searching for “Turtledove hugo” yielded that page rather than the Hugo’s site.

    I’m starting to think John’s concerns about release date are irrelevant. If nobody’s dropping the money to put this in PR Newswire then you’re missing out on a tremendous number of hits and date doesn’t matter if nobody sees the release. The basic i-release is $130 and the payoff is huge, but you need to be serious about sending out a worthwhile release. Doing so means everyone like me with trigger words in our accounts gets links to the releases mailed to us and we can use it for our writing.

    And to be frank, a tremendous number of outlets just do minor rewrites on the releases and run with them. Consider the Turtledove release:

    Jul 2013: The Andrew Wyly Film Company LLC Acquires Rights to ‘How Few Remain’ by Award-Winning Author Harry Turtledove

    Do a search for “”how few remain” turtledove film” and you end up with:

    #1 is the PR Newswire release
    #2 link which just reprints the release with “this is a thing” above it.
    a bunch of aggregated links that are similar/repostings of that forum post.

    Then you get to other more worthwhile writing, like this one. That’s a fan site to be sure, but running this release meant Turtledove got a writeup about his stuff and links to the http://www.howfewremain.com/ website. There’s a high-ranked link to the Yahoo TV network and if you compare the article to the release you see that it’s probably 100% sourced from that press release.

    And really, if you want a defense for keeping the release date where it is, this might be it. Some of these articles are a month later than the press release. But since it was properly promoted it eventually made it into the hands of people who would turn around and use it. It may well be John is wrong on this one just by virtue of how far the Hugos are lagging in every other promotional way. Release date might be worrying about the coat of paint on a car with no engine.

    I don’t mean that as denigrating the value of the Hugos – I’ve loved many a Hugo winner, voted on a few, and been introduced to a lot of great stuff by virtue of them. I think they deserve more prominence than this.

  158. Only half kidding — clearly it either needs Syfy to do a special on it, or it needs to have Hugo winners names in Easter eggs after an Easter egg hunt.

  159. @Brian: The Hugo packet is an e-version of all the literary nominees. So five novels, five novellas, five novelettes and five short stories. Plus probably other stuff (I didn’t see last year’s packet). Well worth it as a perq of an attending membership and also well worth the $40 or so that a supporting membership costs.

    I think one reason why it’s not more touted as a benefit of purchasing a supporting or attending membership to WorldCon is that it’s not guaranteed from year to year. Each year someone has to negotiate with the rights holders. John and Kevin schooled me on that on this very blog a while back. John can speak more knowledgeably about that as he was involved with the early Hugo packets.

    The World Science Fiction Society is made up of no more and no less than everyone who has purchased a membership to this year’s WorldCon. That equally includes everyone from the Convention Chair(s) with decades of fan activity under their belts down to the newest fan who bought a membership by walking in off the street. But, due to the way WorldCons are run, there is limited continuity. Last year’s Hugo committee can’t even answer a question from a nominee whose audio novelette was moved from the novelette category to the best dramatic presentation short form category last year if the actual written novelette is eligible in the novelette category this year. That’s up to this year’s Hugo committee’s interpretation of the rules. (I hope they do allow it and plan to nominate that novelette.)

    It makes long term strategic planning difficult. But it’s not impossible—look at the continuity we have now with the Hugo packet. If enough people push for change, change happens. I’ve seen it. It’s just usually slower than we like to see. It also means that decisions to, for example, release the Hugo nomination slate on the Tuesday before Easter, or follow @donw’s advice and pay $130 for an iRelease on PR Newswire, must be made independently every year by different people. And that does indeed look cuckoocrazypants from the outside of the sausage making.

    It’s good advice, though. I’d LOVE to go to panels discussing the newly minted nominees! Every Con between Easter and WorldCon could program something like that and it would be very valuable. Point out to the audiences that THEY can NOMINATE and VOTE, if not this year then next year! Anything that raises the profile of the Hugos helps future WorldCons in many ways IMO.

  160. When Ostrodad was a reporter, he always worked on Easter. He wasn’t even normally scheduled Sundays, but he always worked Easter.

    Of course, he was pretty much the only Jew in a newsroom full of Catholics, and he needed Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur off (he’s still with us, it’s in the past tense because he’s no longer with the paper).

  161. I think the fact that we areeven having the discussion to some extent disproves the premise. The Hugos are getting a lot more publicity than they did even a few years ago and are visible to a much wider circle than they used to be. Making the announcement a live event isn’t the only thing that has helped, but making it available to people outside the room generates buzz. We see that in the increase in participation in the Hugos, which has almost doubled (I don’t have numbers handy). Worldcons are getting traction from media channels we never would have gotten attention from in the past.

    We don’t do this because it’s a tradition. We do it because the buzz we get from the live event is more attention than we’ve ever gotten in the past. It’s a practical approach. If available facts showed a different approach would get better results, many of us would have no problem kicking tradition to the curb.

    I think having the announcement on the Today show would be awesome. I don’t see a path to make that happen in the short term.

    Point being that we have to make this an event. There has to be a story, something to look at, not just names on a page. Thousands of people see the announcement now, and that is really not chump change. Looking at web stats, i.e. when people are actually online looking at things, there isn’t a dramatic difference between weekends and weekdays, not more than 20%, so the content is a much more important variable than the day of the week, quantitatively. The content of the live announcement is way better than the text of any email; that’s why we do it.

    I am responding here not to defend the status quo, just to explain how we got here. I’m not a decision-maker, but I am in earshot. I’m listening to ideas being offered; I’d also like to suggest that anyone with a knack for promotion to volunteer to help. (I don’t mean John; we don’t expect him to be available to volunteer in the same mode and we greatly appreciate everything he does to help us promote Worldcons and other fan activities.) I’m listening to suggestions, and if I hear an idea I like, I will be passing it along. What I know is that what really matters is having people to do the work; beavering through the work to add quality gets a lot more effect than any single strategy.

    I agree that the discussion of tone is uninteresting. For any writer on their own blog, their tone is part of their what makes their blog noticeable. I did not notice on first reading that John’s original post was strongly worded. I can be offended by tone, but it takes a lot more than that. I would say I agree with John about 80% of the time, which is certainly a low enough percentage to make this blog interesting. ;) So I’d also make the point that those of us disagreeing with John (on this particular point) are disagreeing from our individual perspectives; we’re not speaking for each other. This is a topic worthy of consideration across fandom.

    @Michael > On the other hand, I think John’s comment is correctly directed to next year’s Worldcon, and also to future Worldcon concoms, but not so much bid committees. I believe this is well below the threshold of what different bids should be competing on. If it’s a good idea, it would be worth consideration regardless of who’s in charge. For most policy questions, if there isn’t a local angle, we want to simply run the best Worldcon we can. If it isn’t required for the bid filing, most policy questions you take a stand on are likely to be vote-losers.

  162. @Alex:

    On the other hand, I think John’s comment is correctly directed to next year’s Worldcon, and also to future Worldcon concoms, but not so much bid committees. I believe this is well below the threshold of what different bids should be competing on.

    Though if people interested in attending a Worldcon should that bid win are interested in this issue, asking questions of the bid at bid parties and elsewhere would be one way to direct their attention to this. The next four years bids are: 2016 (Kansas City or Beijing) 2017 (Helsinki, Washington DC, Nippon or Montreal) 2018 (New Orleans or San Jose) 2019 (France or Dublin).

  163. @tigtog: The Hugo Awards Marketing Committee cannot “insist” upon anything. Worldcon committees are sovereign within the limits of the WSFS Constitution. (If you know your US history, think about how the US central government ran under the Articles of Confederation. Worldcons are the states; WSFS is the weak central government. HAMC is one of that weak center’s committees.) We can ask, we can suggest, we can recommend, but we cannot demand. HAMC is completely at the mercy of the individual committee in question. We try to work with Worldcon committees, and most recent Worldcons have been good about working with us, but they would be completely within their rights to tell us to go pound sand.

    BTW, I’m pretty sure there are many committees (including some recent ones) who didn’t give the information in advance to anyone, embargoed or not. Effectively, the only people who knew who the winners in advance were were the people administering the award.


    In case it hasn’t been made clear yet: The membership of the World Science Fiction Society (an unincorporated literary society) is anyone who has purchased an attending or supporting membership (the latter is a non-attending class of membership, receiving everything except the right to attend) in the current Worldcon. All members get the right to nominate and vote on the current year’s Hugo Awards, the right (with some restrictions) to nominate and vote on the previous and following year’s Worldcons (obviously, you have to be a member far enough in advance to nominated on the previous year’s Awards); to receive the convention’s generally-distribution publications including the Souvenir Book; and to vote (subject to an additional fee) on where to hold the Worldcon two years hence. Attending members get those things plus the right to attend the Worldcon, and also to attend, propose, debate, and vote on changes to the WSFS constitution and other governing documents.

    WSFS doesn’t have a Board of Directors. It doesn’t have a separate corporate existence. Its members are whoever joins Worldcon. Its rules for selecting the Hugo Awards and future Worldcon sites are made by its own members. In short, WSFS is not a Distant Big Corporation run by Big Business with a Large Media Presence and a Full Time Marketing Staff. Anyone can join, and anyone can get involved. The reason I’m involved now is because I started going and kept working, and people sometimes were prepared to give me some bits of authority, small as they are.

  164. “What is the benefit of good publicity?”

    Good publicity sells more books. If the books you like make money, they will make more books like the ones you like.

    There are people who hate it when the things they like get popular. They like to be fans of the obscure. Those people are stupid.

    If there’s a restaurant I like, I want it to be busy. Otherwise, it will go out of business.

    If there’s a TV show I like, I want it to be popular so it can run for 7 seasons. (Even though season 4 will suck.)

    If there’s a writer I like, I want his books to be popular enough so that he can quit his day job and write more books.

    By definition, the Hugo nominees are the books Worldcon members like. Good publicity for the Hugo means more books sold, which means publishers will make more books like the ones you like.

  165. Clinky:I think that everyone agrees that good publicity is good. Figuring out which publicity method actually accomplishes the most good things is the tricky part.
    The thought process of the Worldcon organizers behind the live announcement over the Easter weekend has been mentioned and it is basically an attempt to target people likely to actually vote for the Hugos. Data shows that since the live streaming started, more people have been voting. Whether there is a correlation between these two events remains to be seen.
    John asserts that the amount of publicity would be increased by choosing any day other than over Easter weekend and that the raw amount of greater publicity would result in the benefits.
    Methods of increasing publicity (like PR Newswire) have also been mentioned that would seem to be complimentary to either approach.

  166. WSFS doesn’t have a Board of Directors. It doesn’t have a separate corporate existence. Its members are whoever joins Worldcon. Its rules for selecting the Hugo Awards and future Worldcon sites are made by its own members.

    I don’t find this to be a really compelling argument for disorganization or bad practices. Either it’s possible within this structure to do what’s actually good for the organization/award or it’s possible for the members to vote to change the structure so that it works better. If there’s insufficient professional continuity then that’s a problem. If there’s a lack of ability to compel the “member states” to work within certain guidelines such that things get done well (or at all, even, if we take this to its extreme?) then that’s a problem.

  167. @donw: The second point (“a lack of ability to compel the ‘member states’ to work within certain guidelines…”) is true. Now Worldcons do work within the WSFS rules. That is, they present the categories that are in the Constitution. They count nominations and votes in the way prescribed by the Constitution. They issue post-ceremony tallies of the votes as prescribed by the Constitution. But there is nothing in the WSFS Constitution that requires Worldcons to market the Hugo Awards or to cooperate with other Worldcons except in some extremely minimal ways. Everything we’ve been able to accomplish is solely through persuasion and begging. It really is very challenging, because as far as I can tell, no particular Worldcon sees any reason to promote anything other than themselves. Anything they do that benefits the Hugo Award in general or other Worldcons is done solely from the goodness of their collective hearts. Indeed, looking at it solely from the point of view of what sorts of incentives are built into the current system, there are no incentives at all to help other Worldcons and every reason to concentrate everything upon your event and only upon your event, while wanting your predecessors to spend resources promoting your event as well.

    Now of course it’s not really as cut-throat as I make it sound. There are a lot of people of goodwill involved in the process. Indeed, the same names tend to pop up from year to year in similar positions. This year’s lead Hugo Administrator is also Chair of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee (not me!), and so cooperation between Admin and Marketing is quite good. But there’s no guarantees of that, any more than there are any guarantees that there will be a Hugo Voter Packet. It requires a lot of difficult work begging people who have to be persuaded every year that they should do something that may not immediately appear to be in their own best interest in order to serve a higher good.

    Because everything has to work thorough this sort of consensus, it can take many years to get anything done, and radical changes are almost inevitably shot down quickly. This can be incredibly frustrating to anyone trying to improve things, and probably looks insane by someone coming to it as a newcomer with a lot of energy and drive. (It certainly did when I was a newbie.) The entire process is extremely conservative (not in the American political sense, but in the sense of “deeply resistant to change”), but it is possible to get changes made. Heck, if it weren’t for some of us banging on about it in the face of considerable passive and active opposition, we wouldn’t even have the Hugo Awards web site in its current form.

    Therefore, anyone who wants things to change has to be stubborn and persistent and must care deeply about the change, or it’s unlikely to ever get done.

  168. I find all of this interesting. I am not a fan by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. I read SFF books only occasionally. Not sure why, just generally not my cup of tea.


    Pretty much every science fiction book I have read in the past ten years has had “Hugo” on the cover: either the book had won (or been nominated for) a Hugo, or the author had won a Hugo. Until last year, I did not even know exactly how the award was decided, just that it was an award of merit and that there was a better than average chance I would enjoy it. With the exception of _Redshirts_ which I read before the Hugo noms were even announced because a) a friend gushed at me at great length about it and b) I read this blog, when it comes to SFF I pretty much only read Hugo winners (and in the past two or three years, since I have been more aware of the nominations, nominees). I recognize that this is cutting me off from a lot of good books, but life is short.

    So yes, the award matters even to those of us who have never (and probably will never) attend a con, who are only casual fans if they are fans at all.

  169. If the Helsinki 2017 bid succeeds, I for one will be lobbying for the conrunners to announce the Hugo nominations at a reasonable time, instead of on the Saturday during Easter. Who knows, it might start a new tradition!

  170. kastandlee, thank you for your insights into the rather anarchic systems underlying the WSFS and Worldcons and Hugos. Having done some further reading, I see how it all developed the way it has, but it must be intensely frustrating to have to keep on reinventing the wheel with every new set of conrunners and committees.

    I’m amazed the wheels haven’t fallen off the whole thing yonks ago, and I can’t help but think that some reforms to the WSFS Constitution with regard to more sharing between conrunners and more continuity between committees would do the whole shebang a world of good, but I can see the difficulties in getting any reforms at all through the system as it exists.

  171. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to finish reading all of the comments here, but I seriously doubt your suggestion will affect Loncon 3, John. At this point, I’m sure their timetable is set in stone.

    How do the Hugos compare to the Edgars? These are the big awards in the mystery genre, which actually garners more respect in the academic community. I don’t see them getting anymore attention from the press than the Hugos. I just happened to run across their nominees this year and was surprised to find that ORPHAN BLACK had a nomination for Best TV episode. That’s something I would have like to have known sooner.

    Quite frankly, I don’t see that the mainstream press is ever going to give genre/literary awards the attention we’d like them to and I doubt we’d see it happening in London. When Worldcon happens in world class cities like London, Chicago or San Francisco, they generally don’t receive as much media attention as they do in cities like San Antonio, Reno, or Winnipeg.

    BTW–Great comment, Ellen. I like you’re organized train of thought.

  172. As predicted, they did The Stupid. But hey, the last thing they want is more young people showing up at their conventions right?

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