For the team at wiwibloggs, Christmas has come early. That’s because yesterday the National UK Blog Awards announced that we had been shortlisted for Arts & Culture Blog of the Year 2015. More than 42,000 votes were cast across all categories. We’re really touched that our readers took the time to vote! We know y’all have Facebook posts to write, Instagram pics to upload and tweets to send. Thank you for pausing to show us some love.
wiwibloggs has transformed significantly over the past six years. I started the site back in 2009 while I was a correspondent at the London bureau of TIME Magazine. I had come to the UK from the US two years earlier and Eurovision gripped me from the very start. It was like American Idol on steroids, and made all other singing contests seem tame and black-and white. I didn’t have any friends who understood the beauty of Ukrainian drag queens wrapped in tin foil, so the blog became a platform for me to find people who did.
As the years passed, my love of Eurovision grew at the same time as I became less enamoured of my day job. I watched our bureau’s staff shrink from more than 40 people to just three. I was grateful to have survived a series of layoffs, but the ever-increasing workload meant that having a job no longer seemed like much of a prize. I can remember sitting at my desk until 2am waiting for the headquarters in New York to send through final queries and to publish the magazine. wiwibloggs became my main tool for passing the time, and updating became a therapeutic break from the growing anxiety I felt in an ever-smaller office.
As the web site grew it became a major distraction. On November 11, 2011 I found myself in a parliamentary enquiry taking notes as disgraced News International chairman James Murdoch testified about phone hacking. He was uncomfortable — and so was I. I needed to get back to the office to write up something I found far more interesting: the news that Armenia’s Eurovision 2008 singer Sirusho had released a hot new single called “I Like It”. Thankfully that didn’t take long, and the story on Mr Murdoch followed later in the afternoon.
The sad reality is that Eurovision is looked down upon in many British circles, and some of my snootier editors couldn’t be bothered to read about it. But I started finding excuses for the magazine to cover Eurovision, which justified my time away from the office during Eurovision season and helped to defray the expense of traveling to far-flung locations like Minsk. It also helped me get in contact with other fans, which would prove crucial in growing and building the blog.
By 2011 my former roommate was helping me with posts, and we had traveled to Oslo, Kyiv, Amsterdam and Düsseldorf for various Eurovision events. The next year four of us traveled to Eurovision in Baku and the site moved from seasonal to year-round. That fall I decided to leave my job at TIME, partly to pursue freelance opportunities, but also because I wanted to spend more time working on the blog. I have no doubt that I’m poorer than I would have been if I had kept my job. But I now have the opportunity to discover new music and write about it every day. It’s given me joy (and friendships) I would never have experienced tied to my desk. How else but through Eurovision would I end up in Moldova watching women howl into wind machines?
Back in the 00s, blogs were seen as regularly updated web sites written in an informal style. But over time they’ve also become news sites for niche interests. It’s one of the reasons we now have a staff of more than 40 people all around the world. (If you want to join, please get in touch). We’re all obsessed with Eurovision, and the blog is a way for us to connect around our shared interest. Like so many other blogs, we now function much like the magazine I left. We have posts written by a large number of authors, which are edited prior to publication.
Visually we’ve changed quite a bit as well. In 2009 we hosted our site for free on WordPress and were perhaps too focused on Romania’s contestant Elena Gheorghe. By the fall of that year we had moved to our own hosting package and began experimenting with design and colour (see some of the more garish designs below). At times we went a little too pink. Forgive us: Paris Hilton was seriously in at the time.
In any event, thank you for your continued support and comments. Sharing the music with you is what keeps us going. You can share the Eurovision love year-round by visiting our YouTube channel, and by following us on our various social media channels.