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CNET Wins National Magazine Award for Best Web Site

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NEW YORK (AdAge) -- Just before entering the ballroom at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria where this year's National Magazine Awards luncheon was held, one editor dared voice a prediction.
'Esquire' and CNET, a stand-alone online publication without a print component, were two of the big winners in this year's National Magazine Awards.
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Master List Including All Finalists

"I think this will be Esquire's year," the editor offered -- correctly, it turned out. Hearst Magazines' highbrow men's title took home four "Ellies," for Design, Fiction, Profile Writing and Essays and Criticism. Conde Nast Publications' The New Yorker was the only other multiple Ellie winner, taking home three. (The award is an Alexander Calder sculpture, "Elephant," hence the name.)

Good-natured ribbing
And don't think the roomful of close-knit and competitive magazine editors weren't keeping score. A good-natured Mark Whitaker, Newsweek's editor, razzed his counterpart at Esquire, David Granger, at the annual impromptu backstage press conference: "Hey Granger, where's your wheelbarrow?" Mr. Granger, who said he was wearing the first suit he'd bought as Esquire's editor, had already handed off the magazine's Ellies to his staffers.

It was a sweet day for Mr. Granger's magazine, which has been something of a bridesmaid at this annual rite: frequently nominated but rarely a winner. The bridesmaid this year was The Atlantic, which was nominated for six Ellies but took home none. Esquire was nominated for seven Ellies, trailing only The New Yorker, which was nominated for 11.

'General Excellence' winners
Winners of the prized General Excellence category were Aperture (in the under-100,00 circulation category); Tribune Co.'s Chicago (100,000 to 250,000 circulation); Budget Living (250,000 to 500,000 circulation), Advertising Age's "Launch of the Year"; Conde Nast's Gourmet (500,000 to 1 million circulation); Time4Media's Popular Science (1 million to 2 million circulation) and Newsweek (2 million and larger circulation).

Both Gourmet and Popular Science surprised the crowd by beating out illustrious competition, with Gourmet nosing out The New Yorker and Popular Science beating Conde Nast's Vogue, Time Inc.'s powerhouse Real Simple and last year's winner, ESPN The Magazine. In accepting Popular Science's Ellie, editor in chief Scott Mowbray said the magazine had never won an Ellie in its 133-year history, and that it had recently been dubbed "Nerdular Nerdence" by a wag on the World Wide Web.

"And we're proud of that!" he proclaimed.

Best Web site: CNET
CNET won the National Magazine award for best Web site. The category recognizes outstanding magazine Internet sites, as well as online-only magazines and Weblogs, that have a significant amount of original content.

The luncheon, which is put on by the American Society of Magazine Editors, marks a handy gauge of how peers view one another's magazines. But examples of how little Ellies mean in the real world were legion. The now defunct Oxford American won for Best Single Issue. Its editor, Marc Smirnoff, made mordant note of its current situation, dryly expressing gratitude that winning magazines weren't required "to be in existence."

No translation
Kent Brownridge, general manager of Wenner Media (its Rolling Stone won for Evan Wright's reported dispatches from Iraq) had a quick answer when asked if an Ellie translated into ad dollars: "No." (David Carey, The New Yorker's publisher, had a slightly more optimistic take on the question.) Likely the truest answer to that question would be known should Budget Living's chairman-CEO, Don Welsh, still seek to sell the title, a notion he was entertaining late last year. Today, though, a jubilant Mr. Welsh said his title was "not for sale" and had not been for a couple of months. (But at least one executive familiar with the situation was aware of a very recent overture Mr. Welsh made concerning a possible sale.)

After the luncheon, David Remnick, The New Yorker's editor in chief, said he "loathed" choosing one favorite Ellie over all the others, but that he was proudest of its Public Interest award, given for Seymour Hersh's reporting on the Bush administration's inner workings leading up to the most recent Iraq War. When accepting that award, he said that in Bob Woodward's book Bush At War President George W. Bush said, "Sy Hersh is a liar."

"Isn't that rich?" Mr. Remnick deadpanned, although it was a rather cutting deadpan.

The underdogs
Although the day is, inevitably, dominated by a handful of magazines, the most noteworthy moments come when underdog titles take home honors. Budget Living's victory was greeted by loud whoops and squeals from its staffers, nearly all of whom attended. At the podium, editor in chief Sarah Gray Miller (who, judging from numerous attendees' comments, is emerging as something of a top crush in the industry) said, "I'm so uncool, I brought my parents here today."

Other dark horse winners included Consumer Reports for Leisure Interests and City magazine for photography.

What would have been the darkest horse winner, Martha Stewart Living did not win in either category for which it was nominated. Mr. Whitaker, when accepting the General Excellence award for which his title beat out Ms. Stewart's, took a moment to single out Ms. Stewart for praise, calling her a "good sport for showing up" and congratulating her and her staff "for putting out such a fine magazine" in a difficult year.

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