On Saturday night in Belfast, one of Ireland’s best-known bloggers and the instigator of the Irish Blog Awards Damien Mulley announced that after six years of running the popular event it was time to hang up his boots.
From the various shocked tweets and blogs that followed what was a night of celebration at the Europa Hotel became somewhat subdued. Mulley left the door open for other people to pick up the ball and run with it. For once, Irish bloggers appeared lost for words.
I first got to know Damien back in 2004 when he proved enormously helpful as the chairman of IrelandOffline in helping me push Ireland’s broadband deficit onto the national agenda. At the time he blogged and chaired IrelandOffline while holding down a job as a technical writer.
He then began to focus full-time on his online and offline exploits, and having left IrelandOffline became an authority on social media in the Irish media. He began the Irish Blog Awards in 2005 and followed this up in 2007 with the Irish Web Awards. In effect, Mulley and his wingman on the awards, 2FM’s Rick O’Shea, helped two distinct communities forge themselves around fun events and through the filter of awards that recognised merit.
Recognition for bloggers
Today, I spoke to Mulley about his decision to step down from the awards. “I guess the reason for starting them at all in the first place was to get blogging recognised in the mainstream. I think the objective was achieved and if you listen to the radio or watch the TV there are regular parts dedicated to blogs.”
Another motivation for the decision, he explained, was that blogging in Ireland has matured to the extent that music bloggers and food bloggers in Ireland are holding their own awards events. “Food in particular was inspiring. Donal, who runs Harry’s Restaurant in Inishowen, got things running in that particular genre when he started bringing food bloggers up to Donegal to mix with butchers and food producers and Bord Bia were very active, too. There are now 110 Irish food bloggers and some 70 music bloggers active in Ireland.”
When he started, established internet awards in Ireland like the Golden Spiders and the IIA Net Visionary Awards didn’t even have a category for bloggers. “Now they all do, including the Student Media Awards at which I’m a judge.”
Mulley explained he intends to continue organising the Irish Web Awards for the foreseeable future.
He doesn’t see why others shouldn’t take up the mantle. “One of the nice things about the blog awards has been the fact that it got people meeting up and there’s definitely an opportunity for bloggers to continue to meet up and celebrate their achievements. They shouldn’t have to wait for awards to get together.”
I asked him about the Irish blogging community over the past few years and how it has grown and cemented itself. “Particular milestones: it was great seeing bloggers getting regularly featured in the newspapers or getting their own regular columns, seeing the two sisters from Beaut.ie having a regular slot on the late Gerry Ryan’s show and featuring in the Sunday Times. At least six Irish bloggers – including 20 major – have won book deals.
“With these kind of milestones, they don’t always need awards to highlight what they are good at.”
In his closing speech on Saturday night, Mulley referred enigmatically to a Project X himself and O’Shea will be working on. Mulley explained all is likely to be revealed next week and will be an event in the area of online media.
“I’m looking forward to going to various blogging events without being the person who is stressed out. I want to be the tourist for a change.”