At The Drum, we love advertising – probably more than is healthy – but equally we love media that creates compelling content and cultivates loyal, engaged audiences. If it can inform them or make them laugh in doing so, even better. Each year we celebrate said titles at The Drum Awards for Online Media 2022. Put your hands together for our winners.
This year, we saw entries from global editorial teams and media owners of all sizes with the skill and commitment to keep the public informed.
The Grand Prix was secured by Al Jazeera for a clever experience it created to show how inaccessible some of the world’s biggest cities are. Meanwhile, the Chairs Award went to Sky News’s admirable coverage of Cop26 and the climate crisis.
The winners were crowned at a ceremony held in front of a live audience at The Drum Labs in London and broadcast around the world on Friday April 29. The event rewarded the best work in search, with winners coming from all around the globe.
The competition was judged by a powerhouse panel of digital advertising leaders from the likes of CNN, NBCU, Bloomberg, Elle, LinkedIn, Wired UK, The Athletic and Insider.
The footage proving that the party that didn’t happen did indeed happen...
Breaking News Story of the Year: ITV News
On December 7 2021, ITV News sent shockwaves around Westminster when it revealed a leaked recording of staff joking about a Christmas party that had been thrown during lockdown in December 2020.
UK editor Paul Brand, his producer Nathan Lee and head of investigations Imogen Barrer had been in possession of the video in question “for some time,” but due to its sensitive nature and the need for a robust public interest defence in order to run it, they were waiting for their moment.
The government was on the ropes, making numerous evolving statements regarding the parties that weren’t parties. The video evidence later came to the fore, eroding all previous denials.
ITV News said: “With each denial that emanated out of No10 it became clear that what we had in our possession had the potential not only to blow a hole in the No10 narrative, but would also seriously undermine the public’s trust in the government. A huge amount of due diligence and legal consideration still had to be taken before it was agreed [to run].”
An innovating news team finding new ways to inform young people
Outstanding Digital Team of the Year: Channel 4 News
@c4news Reply to @allinson_sam #Russia has invaded #Ukraine, but are we heading towards World War Three? #news #learnontiktok #channel4news #war ♬ original sound - Channel 4 News
Despite the challenges 2021 presented to all broadcasters, Channel 4 News’s digital team brought news to more young people across more platforms than ever before.
It launched two global politics series on Snapchat, and joined TikTok to break stories and – more importantly perhaps – combat misinformation on the platform. Its FactCheck team was kept busy “holding the government to account in what can seem like a post-truth world,” and its news podcast The Fourcast expanded to three days a week with a listenership of 1.2 million in the last year.
Also, tying into the ITV News Christmas Party story, Channel 4 News takes credit for the infamous “ambushed by a cake” line from the UK government that was endlessly memed.
A year of success, evolution and diversification
Brand of the Year: Gay Times
Gay Times recorded its most successful year in 2021. Its new editorial strategy reflected a push into new formats. Meanwhile, it brought the famous magazine into its digital-only era with a bang.
Unique users for 2021 increased by 32% year-on-year, social engagement climbed by 40% year-on-year, and the magazine reached more than 5 million people per issue. The overall reach of content topped 400 million. Furthermore, it became the first LGBTQ+ media publication to pass 1 million followers on Instagram and launched its first podcast Drag Race-themed show Snatched!.
It also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands to create content that resonated with an LGBTQ+ audience, including Apple Music to support LGBTQ+ music talent and recolored black and white archive images for the first time from Pride’s past with Skittles.
A web experience that highlights how inaccessible cities are
Editorial Innovation of the Year and Grand Prix: Al Jazeera
Inaccessible Cities was an interactive web experience that looked into the state of accessibility in three megacities – New York City, Lagos and Mumbai. Through the lens of three women with disabilities, the project revealed how the lack of accessible public transport and infrastructure further marginalized the disabled community in these cities.
AJ Contrast, Al Jazeera Digital’s two-time Emmy-nominated media innovation studio, created the experience. For extra credit, the web experience is fully accessible online to people with disabilities.
Making news for everyone on social
Social Media Team of the Year: Joe Media
More UK government partying makes the list – albeit with a more humorous twist.
Joe Media is a news brand that isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. From funny video mash-ups and interviews with top politicians to on-the-ground reports at refugee camps in Northern France, it’s got a way of making waves on social.
In 2021, it was maturing some of these strategies. It found a way to adapt its most successful formats to new platforms and added an extra sheen to its staples. For example, those famous mash-ups and head-swaps are now powered by a motion graphics team and are slicker than ever.
It has built the ability to tailor content suitably to platform, acknowledging broad insights like how longer videos work well on Instagram and shorter minis on TikTok and Reels. Some of the said content received news coverage too.