Thoughts On Best of Show Awards: The Process + Results

As a matter of policy, we rarely comment on what’s taking place at other publications, but I wanted to share a few thoughts related to the CNET Best of CES award controversy that’s currently going public—one that has raised questions over CNET’s editorial independence, after it was revealed that CBS executives tampered with the original award results.

I’ve worked professionally as a writer and reviewer for a little over two decades now, so I have a fair bit of experience in rating products and services, as well as judging awards. Over the years, I’ve headed up award panels (including iLounge’s), participated in others (such as CES’s Innovations Design and Engineering awards), and spent quite a lot of time thinking about what is and isn’t award-worthy. The independence and integrity of the award judging process are truly very important to me—values that I’ve imparted to every member of iLounge’s team, before, during, and after we sit down to discuss awards. Because these values have been with us since the beginning, I can say with confidence that our publisher has never interfered with our award process; every award has been a pure editorial selection, based on the merits of the product’s design, features, and pricing. In the Apple accessory world, innovation remains a highly desirable but rare fourth factor.

Our awards have always been earned, and never bought; unlike many publications, we do not charge companies to submit products for award consideration, nor for the right to publicize or reprint the awards—a shockingly common trick that can earn award-granting publications thousands of dollars. Moreover, we always bring fewer awards than we could hand out, and always hand out fewer awards than we brought. This year, we brought 30 total awards and had five left over at the end. To us, the process of judging awards isn’t a business. As our inclusion of reasonable pricing as a factor should underscore, issuing awards is something we do to commend developers for doing right by their customers.

In some years, potential awards have inspired passionate debate amongst our editors: generally brief but serious arguments over items that might otherwise have sailed through without full consideration, or been dismissed too quickly. This year, a new contributor noted our extended discussion of the actual engineering merits of an iPad mini wheelchair mount that otherwise seemed deserving of an award. That sort of deliberation is par for the course in our process. And on many occasions, we’ve passed on handing out awards to products that were obviously going to be heavily marketed—and potentially popular—simply because they didn’t meet our criteria for actual excellence.

I can’t speak to what happens at other publications, but I’m extremely proud of the work that goes into our annual awards. Our goal isn’t to have every reader agree with every award, but rather to consistently choose impressive new products that are deserving of special attention on their merits. This year’s Best of Show Awards include many new products that are worthy of your attention. We hope that if you haven’t seen them yet, you’ll take a look, and know that they were arrived upon through a process you can trust.

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