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Rockets Fly As Webby Race Narrows

In an impressive show of public support, the two Kiwi-based sites in this year's Webby Awards race are closing on their big-name rivals in the publicly voted People's Voice section of the Awards.

Denis Dutton's influential Arts and Letters Daily site jumped from 5% to 23% in just three days after he announced its Webby nomination to his readers. The vote rocketed past the BBC, and is only two points behind the current leader in the News category, Debkafile.

Meanwhile, SciTechDaily.com's Virtual Kiwi Vote campaign has accelerated its steady climb against NASA, passing 29% and pulling NASA's vote down to 50% over the weekend. With only 11 days to go before public voting ends on June 7, SciTechDaily.com Managing Editor Vicki Hyde is predicting a very close race.

"Thanks to strong Kiwi and international support, we've been making ground consistently on NASA for three weeks now, even though a site with NASA's huge following is very hard nut to crack," says Hyde.

That support included a gift of 1,000 rockets from Christchurch company Firework Professionals to help attract attention to the campaign.

"We figured we'd take the fight to NASA's home turf," laughs Hyde. "Of course, in true NASA fashion, we had to cancel the first launch because gale-force winds blew through 30 minutes before countdown, but Sunday's launch with accompanying black-powder cannonfire was great fun."

Hyde was surprised to hear from the Webby Award organisers that international media had been asking about the rocket launch.

"I guess they weren't aware of what Kiwis are like when they get behind something…but I am, after all, from Canterbury…."

The New Zealand online community is also right behind the campaign. Major local search engine, SearchNZ and its affiliated sites have pledged one million banners to spread the word, and the Virtual Kiwi can be seen on sites as diverse as DineOut, Jade Software, Scoop and Women on Air. Creative New Zealand has covered the campaign, recognising that the Web world is as much about creativity these days as technology, and even large foreign-owned companies like Ericsson and Toyota have passed the word onto local staff and clients.

"Support like that is what will help push us over the top, especially if all those who find out about our campaign not only vote, but also pass the message on to someone else," said Hyde.

The SciTechDaily.com site boasts a burgeoning list of New Zealand and international supporters who appreciate the site's aim of providing a greater understanding of the role of science and technology in society through linking to the best science writing on the Web.

"If people come to the site simply to vote for the underdog, perhaps they'll stay and find an interesting story to read - we'd win both ways, as far as I'm concerned," says Hyde. "But it would be great to be the first Kiwi site to win a Webby…."

The Sixth Annual Webby Awards recognise the world's leading Internet sites. SciTechDaily.com is one of five final nominations in the Science Category. The main awards are decided by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences; these will be announced in San Francisco on June 18.


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