January 2004

This month our View has been dominated by preparations for the 2004 WHSmith 'People's Choice ' Book Awards. 2003 has been a year in which interactive voting has come to the fore, for everything from Pop Idol contestants to BBC Radio 4 Today's poll for which new legislation listeners wished to be steered through Parliament.

Last year we pioneered the unique inVote™ system for the 2003 Book Awards. This year, together with our applications and telecoms partners, mTank and Payco UK, we have introduced a new expanded system linked to the www.whsmithbookawards.co.uk website which we have developed for WHSmith.

See reports in The Times and The Guardian which describe the Book Awards and the interactive voting system, and our own Press Release below.

We are justifiably proud of this achievement... but next month View from the Fen will be back to our usual format !

Meanwhile, please vote at whsmithbookawards.co.uk.

Press Release: 14 JANUARY 04

Vote anyway you like for Harry Potter, Delia — or Paul Burrell

Interactive voting makes everyone a judge for WHSmith Book Awards

People throughout the country can make their choice by text, online, at libraries, WHSmith stores or by post in what is fast becoming a national sport: voting for your favourite book.

People's Choice Book AwardsUnlike the BBC’s ‘Big Read’, the WHSmith ‘People’s Choice’ Book Awards focus on living authors and new books — titles published in Britain in 2003, including some that have sparked intense media controversy.

The unique technology behind the voting comes from Cambridge companies mTank and Mediation Technology, working together with Wirral-based Payco UK. These companies are managing the entire interactive voting process as a service for WHSmith.

Controversially, this year J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Fiction has been promoted to the adult Fiction category. Equally controversial, Paul Burrell’s A Royal Duty has been included in the Biography list — giving readers the chance to express their own opinions.

mTank’s unique inVote™ interactive voting system instantly records the votes as they come in from all the different voting sources:

All these different types of vote are entered as they happen into a single database. People can vote more than once over the six-week period of the vote; inVote™ records the time and source of the vote, so that any attempt to hijack voting can be identified by WHSmith.

The inVote™ system gives WHSmith a graphical ‘control panel’ that displays the state of the vote minute-by-minute from around the country — a unique feature.

inVote™ was developed from our experience of interactive voting for TV and other media," said Geoff Vincent, CEO of mTank. "We are all familiar with voting for game shows, but this new type of ‘instant’ interaction can be applied to more serious purposes too. We think that this type of ‘people’s poll’ will be used for many things in future, and it’s a great way for organisations to stay in touch with the people they serve."

"We have worked hard to integrate all the different voting routes into one system," said Mike Sowden, Director of Payco UK. "Voting takes place over an extended six-week period, and through several different media, so it is as easy as possible for everyone to have their say. WHSmith have done an excellent job in putting together the Awards, and we’re pleased to be a part of it."

Voting is in 8 categories — Fiction, Debut Novel, Autobiography/Biography, Travel, Lifestyle, Business, Factual, Teen Choice. Each category has five shortlisted books, chosen by a panel including celebrity judges (such as the Duchess of York, Robson Green, Linda Barker and Janet Street-Porter) as well as members of the pubic. But if voters don’t like what’s on the shortlist, they can opt for their own choice.

The Web site for this year’s Awards (www.whsmithbookawards.co.uk ), developed by Mediation Technology, has been greatly extended and includes information about the Awards, their history, previous winners, celebrity judges, authors, and shortlisted books. As well as voting, visitors to the site can click through instantly to buy any of the books on the shortlist from WHSmith Online. WHSmith plans to develop the Book Awards Web site into a year-round resource for book lovers, where they can see information about the nation’s favourite books, and track the progress of next year’s Awards as they happen. The nation’s love affair with books is set to continue, and the WHSmith Book Awards is the easiest way for readers to express their appreciation of the authors they like.

Geoff Vincent on 01223 872340 (Mediation Technology / mTank)
Mike Sowden on 0151 353 0221 (Payco UK)

Or by email

©2004 Mediation Technology