If you've ever created or managed an online writing or photography site, you know that contests are a wonderful way to spur user involvement. There's nothing like a little competition and a reward to get people motivated to contribute, and there are many ideas out there that have been successful in both getting new material and rewarding the users who work so hard to make the site's content valuable.




Everyone loves to celebrate, and holidays are a recurring theme (and the articles become timely, year after year). While we all know the obvious ones such as Valentine's day, Independence day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, there are hundreds of other, more obscure holidays that go unnoticed. This is a shame, because these are often "long-tail" keywords with high earning potential--so let's look at some examples:


New Years Day
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday
Inauguration Day


Valentine's Day
Washington's Birthday
Groundhog Day
Super Bowl Sunday


St. Patrick's Day
Pi Day


April Fool
Earth Day
Arbor Day


Memorial Day
Cinco de Mayo
Mother's Day
Towel Day


Flag Day
Father's Day


Independence Day
Pi Approximation Day


Alfred, Lord Tennyson's birthday
International Day of the World's Indigenous People
National Dog Day


Labor Day
Constitution Day


Columbus Day




Pearl Harbor Day
New Year's Eve

If this isn't enough holidays for you, try Bizarre American Holidays--some of these can spark some really creative thinking! Or add the holidays of other countries, or local provincial or state holidays.

Chartist Meeting




Another great way to encourage contests is to write about dates in history. For this, all you'll need is a "This Date in History" site. Not only can people write about historical events, but about local customs, historical recipes, historical fashion, music, manners, etc. For example, take the fall of the Bastille: article or photo ideas might include Dumas and The Three Musketeers (or a review of Pothos' favourite Anjou wine); the Bastille; the French Revolution; French food; French politics; even French music and literature of the Revolutionary era.

Current Events:

Grammy Award

With the Internet, news is available from all over the world. So many events are happening each day that it's easy to find great contest ideas--from spelling bees to political demonstrations. In fact, the real problem is that there's just so much to choose from--anything from new technology to new music (or old music made new).

Cultural Events:

Chocolate Souffle

Whether it's the world's first Twitter Opera, or the Grammys, the Oscars, or some other cultural event, there's plenty of material here to spark contest ideas. Television shows hold many ideas for contests, even if you don't have a television. For example, a contest theme about the X-files could inspire submissions for conspiracy theories, UFOs, telepathy, ESP, dowsing, the FBI, crop circles, local legends, and more--all the way to fashion critiques or continuity errors.

Food and Drink:

This category is almost endless--not only the world's cuisines, wines, recipes, and gardening, but food and drink is such a major part of our lives that we really have no end of ideas here. Whether it's growing your own food, reviewing restaurants, etiquette for wine-tastings, or planning a Hallowe'en or April Fools themed menu, this is something anyone at all can write about!

In short, the world around us is full of ideas. Whether it's a bird singing outside your window that inspires a contest on spring, or animals, or noise reduction, or a child asking you "Why is the sky blue?" there's no need to search far for contest ideas. A little creativity and the right reward for the contest winners can go a long way to spark enthusiasm and excitement among site users and contributors!

Write Good or Die
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Thirty great essays on writing. Wonderful inspiration for NaNoWriMo!