Two businesses honored with ‘Internet Oscars’

LANGLEY — Two multi-media company teams have won Webby Awards, the leading international honor for the Internet projects. Unusual, however, is that both of them celebrated in Langley.

Russell Sparkman

LANGLEY — Two multi-media company teams have won Webby Awards, the leading international honor for the Internet projects. Unusual, however, is that both of them celebrated in Langley.

Hailed as the “Oscars of the Internet” by The New York Times, the Webby Award honors excellence on the Internet, including Web sites, interactive advertising, online film and video and mobile Web sites.

The Langley-based Fusionspark Media was named an official honoree for their work on the Dive Rite Web site.

Also recognized was

CampusTech for their product

CampusU, a social content site for college students.

“I was pretty blown away when

I learned that we’d received this recognition,” said Russell Sparkman, CEO of Fusionspark Media.

“We entered this into the Corporate Communications category, where we knew we’d be competing against Fortune 500 companies, with significantly larger Web communications budgets,” he said.

Bobby Frank, CEO of

CampusTech, said it’s a testament to the caliber of people working on the CampusU site that provides a space for students to show off their creations such as music, art or writing.

“We have world-class people,” Frank said. “We’re a perfect example for a distributed company. We have people working all over the place,” said Frank who leads the New York-based company from Langley.

The two companies are part of what Sparkman called the hidden local economy.

Fusionspark is nationally recognized for the quality of its Web communications projects, and the firm has earned Webby recognition before.

“What’s fascinating about this is that we’re a home-office based business, based here in Langley,” Sparkman said.

“Our team works virtually, even though many of those who work with us are from South Whidbey. We’re part of a hidden economy of home-based technology business, as well as other home-based business, that are bringing income into the community from off island businesses.”

Sparkman said about 90 percent of the money made on the project was paid to South Whidbey residents.

“It’s gratifying to work with a company bringing business from outside the community into our local economy — it seems a lot of what I get paid from Fusionspark these days goes right to Sebos and other local businesses,” said Roger Los of Langley, who was the graphic designer and programmer on the project.

“Personally, I’m excited by the potential for South Whidbey to become a nexus for technology-based businesses such as our own, with Fusionspark Media serving as a case study for how that can happen,” Sparkman said.

Fusionspark and CampusTech stood out through content and design and because they found a niche in the endless stream of Web offerings.

Jack Penland of Freeland was responsible for the video portion of the Fusionspark project. He said his company’s approach set them apart.

“I like working with Fusionspark Media projects like the Dive Rite project because they understand the journalistic need to tell a good story,” he said. “Now that we’ve moved beyond the novelty of slide shows and video on the Internet, the challenge is how to tell stories that people will connect with.”

Penland added that Dive Rite was originally interested in just a product catalog. But the team convinced them of how effective compelling online storytelling would be to increase awareness of their products and brands.

Fusionspark’s winning entry is a collaboration that spans across the country.

In 2007, the Lake City, Fla.-based Dive Rite turned to Fusionspark Media to help the company re-establish its online brand recognition as the pioneer manufacturer of technical SCUBA diving equipment.

The company’s Web site,

www.diverite.com, includes a high resolution catalog of product photography, an historical timeline about cave diving, feature stories by world-renowned underwater explorers and comprehensive information to help technical SCUBA divers with solutions to dive gear related issues.

Since its launch in November 2007, the site has become one of the top online resources for technical SCUBA diving gear, the creators said.

“They’ve gone from zero visibility online, to being one of the top sites in Google searches related to technical SCUBA gear in less than a year,” Sparkman said.

This included not only helping them decide how to present their products online, but how to tell their story as well.

“As an approach to re-establishing their brand as the primary pioneering company in technical diving, we included ideas such as an historical timeline about cave diving, as well as a program in which dive rite ambassadors share their stories and adventures,” Sparkman said.

Sparkman, a hobby diver, got not only a great Web site and an award out of the collaboration.

“Part of winning this contract with this client was an agreement to take cave diving training with them in springs in Florida,” Sparkman said, recalling the adventure in April.

“It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” he added.

Robert Grant, Noriko Sparkman, Susan Maureen Green and Kevin Sparkman were also part of the team.

The client is happy, too.

Kathleen Byars, marketing vice president for Dive Rite, said it shows that the company made the right choice.

“What’s cool about the Webby Honoree is that the industry recognition encourages us that we’ve chosen the right direction by focusing on our web communications strategy,” she said.

“We’ve put ourselves in a different league, which was our intention. It’s great for a small, privately owned business to see our name on a list of honorees that includes companies such as Nike and the Wall Street Journal,” Byars added.

The awards were judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, a global organization that includes such media heavyweights as Harvey Weinstein, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and Internet inventor Vinton Cerf.

The 12th Annual Webby Awards received nearly 10,000 entries from more than 60 countries and all 50 states. Fewer than 15 percent received the honor and were deemed an official honoree.

Two companies with Langley roots being recognized is quite impressive, Sparkman said.

“It’s like two people from Langley winning an Oscar,” he said.

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