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June 2022 RR blog edit 01

Should we call time on black tie?

Published: 01 Jul 2022

After two years of virtual or hybrid events, it was wonderful to be reunited at Old Billingsgate for the Digital Publishing Awards, a night that — if it isn’t too bold for us to say — felt like the Oscars for the UK’s digital content creators. The excellence and innovation of our industry was celebrated the best way we know how: with stand-up, speeches, drinks and dancing, in a wonderful venue. Our host was the brilliant Sophie Duker, fresh from her win on Taskmaster, with beatbox band Duke providing the music with an energy that lifted the room to its feet.

It goes without saying that all our winners and finalists deserve a massive congratulations, with each one continuing to inspire us with their resilience in a changing and challenging environment. You can read the full list of winners here.

While we all enjoyed putting on the ‘glad rags’ to honour such successes, it was only afterwards, when reviewing the photos and reflecting on a fantastic evening, that we noticed something we hadn’t really thought about in previous years: a sea of black suits. This wasn’t a surprise — the dress code was black-tie, and our guests followed the brief brilliantly — but was the result slightly elitist? Did it genuinely reflect who we are and where we’re going as an industry?

There have been powerful discussions in the publishing industry — including at our recent CRUNCH event — on the importance of DE&I, but perhaps an awards dinner such as this is a prime example of how we still have some way to go in cultivating a truly diverse and inclusive environment.

And the next category is: bye-bye black tie?

The Digital Publishing Awards were perfect for post-lockdown dressing up, but the event left us with many questions about the suitability of the black-tie dress codes, or any dress codes at all.

In hindsight, is an outfit that dates to Victorian Britain the most appropriate choice for an award show celebrating forward-thinking digital media? Does the strictly gendered divide between suits and dresses impede the open gender expression we as an industry want to encourage? Do formal dress codes hold guests back from being able to show up as their most authentic selves?

I don’t have the answers, but I want to ask the questions, and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts too. How can we continue to capture a sense of occasion, but without alienating members of our audience? Perhaps it’s simply a case of ‘dress to impress’: whatever makes you feel your best, and allows you to present your character, culture, and identity in a manner suitable for celebration. For some of us — myself included — that may still be a dinner suit but worn through choice rather than dictation.

After all, clothing is a means of communication, and we don’t want to communicate that elitism has any place in our industry. There is power in reinterpreting the past, but the night reminded us that we are much more interested in the now and excited by the future — and that’s a feeling worth dressing up for.

But given that the topic is individualism and self-expression, we shouldn’t be doing all the talking. We would love to hear from anyone who attended the Digital Publishing Awards about how our events can be more inclusive in their attire, along with ideas for themes or even photos of your favourite celebration outfits.

Drop our Awards Director an email at and help us make our next event a celebration not just of our work, but of our diversity too.


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AOP announces Winners of the Digital Publishing Awards 2022

– The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) celebrated the digital publishing industry’s top talent at its in-person awards ceremony held at Old Billingsgate in London, yesterday. AOP’s flagship event, now in its 20th year and organised in association with headline partner, PubMatic, was hosted by comedian Sophie Duker. The event showcased the individuals, teams and companies driving the successful growth of the online publishing sector. There were 26 category winners, judged by a panel of experts under the guidance of co-chairs, Amanda Barnes, Chief Executive of Faversham House, and Dominic Carter, Group Chief Commercial Officer of News UK.

Published: 16 Jun 2022