The Case for More NT Item Prizes
1. Similar contests award better prizes, usually for less work.
The Storytelling Contest, Poetry Contest, Art Gallery and Caption Competition all give out prizes from a pool that includes Paint Brushes, Petpet Paint Brushes, Lab Map pieces, training items and avatar items (according to Jellyneo's most recent list). Worst case scenario, you get a Petpet that's worth a few hundred Neopoints for writing at least a few hundred words or drawing one picture.
I don't want to belittle the work of people who put huge amounts of effort into such contests. Many people enjoy them so much that they do a great job and put out something excellent. But the fact remains that, at the bare minimum, the NT simply takes more work (and has the potential for more work to be put into it). Articles get up in thousands of words, long series get even more words (per part) and comics occasionally have each panel drawn painstakingly. If you want to go by word count, the minimums for articles, short stories and individual series parts are 1000 words, 1200 words and 1500 words all respectively. A poem or storytelling entry may get accepted even if it's just a few hundred words.
2. Entries would increase.
Many Neopians enjoy reading the Times as well as, or instead of, creating for it. Which is why it's been a little sad to see entries dwindle over the last few years. Open up a Y12 issue of the Neopian Times, compare it to a newer one, and see the depletion.
One reason for this fire dying is likely that many players already own the NT Star avatar. It's only natural that they would prefer to seek after other avatars. Instating a frequent item prize system would give NT writers something they can't have too much of.
And those of us who already enjoy writing more than we have to? Oh, we're only going to write even more. If the NT prize frequency is buffed, we'll have an incentive to not only continue writing for the NT when we normally would, but also when we'd be earning Neopoints in other ways instead.
It's possible that TNT has simply been pickier recently, but it's hard to tell. This does, however, bring me to my next point.
3. Entry quality would increase, especially if the editor decides to let through the same amount of entries as before.
Whether you love or hate many of the stories today is your own opinion. But entrants, new and old, would face more competition.
NT veterans love what they do. But more competition would give them (us, if I count as a veteran) an extra reason to polish entries to an even greater extent. Polishing can be rewarding in and of itself, but the task is easier with motivation.
4. TNT could use this as an opportunity to deflate some items.
Events, dailies and other contests have already been used to deflate items, so why not the biggest contest in all of Neopia? Many have felt devastated by Neopet-related deflations from the Forgotten Shore daily -- but for the dear old Neopian Times, it would be easy to keep from overdoing it on specific items by virtue of the Times usually having less than sixty entries a week.
5. TNT could still do themed prizes on special issues: either instead of, or addition to a prize from the prize pool.
Some of the contests I mentioned in the first point already do this. On a couple of occasions, the Caption Contest has given out Ghostkerchief Pens to the entrants, in place of an item from the normal prize pool. The Storytelling Contest gives out The Storyteller collectable card every hundredth competition, along with a prize from the normal prize pool.
When the Poetry Contest selects entries for hundredth editions, the poets receive Alstaf Poogle (or, for the thousandth page, Millenial Pen). This is in addition to a regular prize, as entries are selected from the past hundred pages instead of taken in new.
My own special issue NT prizes have ranged from a Green Alkenore to a Plushie Paint Brush to a Neopian Times Coin. I wouldn't mind receiving a special issue prize in place of a prize pool item.
6. Arguably, the NT is due for some sort of update anyways. And TNT has updated plenty of features in the past few years.
Maybe the reason TNT hasn't done this yet is because of mountains of code they would have to mine away and revamp. But you know what? Maybe the NT is overdue for such a thing already. It's been over 500 issues since anything was changed. A total revamp has been done twice before, and obviously not at the expense of having to throw old issues out. Seriously, everything back to Issue -68 has been archived. (After the first 68 issues, they started counting from 1 again.)
That doesn't mean that they would have to do a total revamp. In fact, although I definitely think a revamp would be interesting to see, I panic at the thought of parting from the beloved layout of the current NT, in all its elegant simplicity and pale blue glory!
No, they could get off the hook with just a prize revamp. Which is fine.
Now let us count the things which have been updated in the past few years. The shop stocking system, the Battledome, the Wheels, and the addition of avatars for a couple of the Beauty Contest and Site Spotlight. I would say that, judging from the coding feats required for those things, they could easily do a prize revamp for the NT.
Now, some of you may have objections to my arguments... which is why I will address a couple of possible counterpoints.
But Ellbot, NT writers would do it for the money instead of the show!
Au contraire. Really, if you didn't think we won't just write more and write harder (or, um, comic harder for the cartoonists), you're dead wrong. Will we abruptly publish twelve-part series about the joy of being greedy? Not likely. We already have ideas that we work to bring alive.
We've already been doing this for the show anyways. Really, why else do you think that any of us went beyond ten entries (including a single fiftieth issue one) to begin with? The special issue prizes? Then why did some of us make series that go through one or two special issues, instead of just writing for the special issues alone?
We'd just be doing it for the money and the show. And that money would motivate the show.
But Ellbot, you're biased!
Well, I can't exactly erase my 76X NT trophy to un-bias myself to qualify myself to make my point.
But Ellbot, what if newer writers can't get in because of the greedy established writers?
If you've ever read a section of the Times front to back, you can tell that TNT has made provision for newbie wordsmiths and cartoonists. This writer was first accepted when she was young, and learned to write from the Times. Believe me, the NT is where I got the chance to work through that learning curve, have a place to get my work out, and get experience dealing with rejections.
I've improved so much that I can tell you for sure: there will always be leeway for even the least experienced writers and artists. I've seen many stories written by aspiring young players with shakier foundations of grammar and composition than I did when I was first published. I can also tell you that the editor's expectations of you will be judged accordingly as you improve. That makes me think of one more point, in fact! Surprise!
7. More Neopets players will get into writing and making comics. People who already do those things will have another outlet to use to improve their skills and just enjoy creating.
I'm not the only player whose life has legitimately been changed because of the Neopian Times. Many other writers have stated in their work or the NT editorial that writing for the Times is how they found their passion. Some have even become published in real life, and they never would have known they liked writing (or comic-ing) if it weren't for the NT.
I started writing for the NT because I admired the authors of the stories I read. Many others did it for the avatars, I'm sure. But really, the NT is one of the best places on the Internet to read and write. A consistent prize system would only encourage more potential writers and artists.
This is the most important point I could possibly make, because it's the most powerful way the NT has changed people for the better.
I hope TNT considers granting my plea or giving this a publish. As always, thanks for reading, and with any luck nobody was blinded by the way I spaced sections of this article.