ASBPE’s Website of the Year award is one of the most highly sought-after prizes in the annual Azbee Awards of Excellence competition. Winners need to showcase the total package — the quality of writing, reporting and editing — plus all the online-specific elements of visual storytelling, layout and design, and interactivity.
Engineering-News Record’s ENR.com won 2022 Website of the Year with a site that emphasizes photography and graphics, showcases new multimedia and continues to draw in its audience of construction industry professionals based around the world.
Azbee Awards judges called the site “content-rich,” “well-structured and organized” and said it “has the look and feel of a mature site, one that has been around long enough to have established its credentials.”
I asked Richard Korman, deputy editor of ENR and ENR.com, to share insight into what makes the site valuable and dynamic for readers. The 37-year veteran of the brand (he assured me that wasn’t a typo) said one of the site’s priorities is “keeping laptop and smartphone viewers tuned in to what they need or want and will talk about with their colleagues.”
Ricca: Tell us about ENR.com’s design philosophies and how you incorporate imagery, navigation and other points of entry.
Korman: “The emphasis is on images, big ones, because of the visual nature of our industry, with gleaming skyscrapers, massive tunnels, hurricane-battered cities and towns, etc., and the growing number of viewers who find us on social media. While many of our breaking news stories are simple affairs with a standard image size with text beneath it, our features and some news stories are chock full of photos and charts.
Our navigation is organized by subject matter and content type — there’s a nav bar heading for events, for example, with access to many of our webinars and info on in-person events — and the navigation topics change from time to time, but most of our viewers are finding our content via organic search So while we still greet many visitors to ENR.com via our homepage, the key points of entry are the individual stories. We want to keep people on the site a minimum of four minutes and all the way up to seven or eight and more.”
Ricca: How have your insights into ENR’s readership influenced how you set up your site?
Korman: “We watch page views and visits obsessively. We must meet the needs of older readers, of which there are many, with younger viewers more likely to read on their smartphones or find us on social media. It’s images, images and more images — including photos bought or obtained for free, and graphics produced by our talented art department. We know our readers are very busy people, so we produce a lot of headlines and convey much in heads and teasers. But they, or other parts of our audience, also expect depth and authority. We will surface breaking news, such as the Champlain Towers collapse or legal settlement, to the top of the homepage, but we will also leave longer shelf-life features in prominent places knowing some of our audience won’t tune in every single day.”
Ricca: Multimedia is a big part of ENR’s coverage, including podcasts, photo contests, polls and more. What tips do you have for ASBPE members about how to showcase that type of content online?
Korman: “There’s no magic to it. We always think of our website in conjunction with our numerous newsletters and social posts, with LinkedIn becoming increasingly important. But I say beware of too much reliance on content and strategy approaches and theories.
Our readers — contractors, engineers, public works officials — are very smart, logistically gifted and good at math. They are also steeped in social policy and political realities of business. We are always looking for the right story told the right way and how the content is presented, so our discussion of ‘content’ usually starts with the story’s importance and the quality of the reporting and writing; then we quickly switch to presentation, newsletter, social posting and homepage play. We want each story page, and the website as a whole with all its parts, to convey the complexity and vitality of the industry, and of course our more than century-old brand.”
Ricca: With a twice-monthly print magazine and a news-forward website, what’s your strategy when it comes to prioritization? Do you consider ENR print-first and digital-second, vice versa, or another strategy?
Korman: “We for years now have treated digital and print as equal priorities, and I should say events, in-person and digital, are also seen as content and led by our former editor-in-chief. We have a deep editorial staff and numerous freelancers.”
Q: What sort of feedback do you hear from readers about your site?
Korman: “Very little feedback relates to how the site itself works, with the occasional inquiry about how to find and navigate to particular charts, graphs and statistics on ENR.com. Most of what we hear is responding to the issues in a story, commenting sometimes on the quality of the journalism, research, balance, writing, etc., or the ideas expressed in opinion pieces.
By far our greatest interactive feature — because we love interacting with people who manage and work in our tumultuous industry — are the photo contest submissions. It began in print almost two decades ago but the backlit beauty of images on laptops and even smartphones has excited even more interest from our photo-crazed viewers.”