When the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent found out they had won an EPPY award, most were wearing Halloween costumes.
Matt Kettman, senior editor, received an email on Halloween morning requesting a picture of the whole team for the EPPY Award. After some research, Kettman realized that the day before, the Independent had received one of the publishing industry’s most prominent honors, an EPPY Award.
Most of the staff members had completely forgotten about entering the competition in the first place. Eventually, the staff that was in the building assembled on the roof of the Independent’s offices and took the picture, Halloween costumes and all.
The EPPY Awards, presented by monthly magazine Editor and Publisher, honor the best media-affiliated websites across a variety of categories. The Independent won the 2013 EPPY for Best Weekly or Non-Daily Newspaper Website with under 1 million unique monthly visitors.
The international contest, now in its 18th year, has honored huge media outlets such as CNN, ESPN, and the Associated Press. It is an incredible honor that a small news organization like the Santa Barbara Independent has been commended with an EPPY.
“It’s nice to be nationally recognized by well-qualified people who spent a lot of time judging,” said Mike Gahagan, web content manager.
According to Editor and Publisher’s guidelines for judging, “categories are judged on criteria such as design, ease of use, comprehensiveness, and timeliness, with special attention to each entrant’s value added through the unique attributes of interactivity.”
Robert LeBlanc, the Independent’s webmaster, was pleased when he learned of winning the 2013 award. “It makes me happy because I always keep usability and ease for the user in mind when I’m designing,” he said.
This is not the Independent’s first time being honored. In 2008, the Independent received the award for Best Weekly Newspaper-Affiliated Web Site after its complete overhaul in April of 2007, when it began to publish daily articles online.
“We thought it was a bit premature,” said Kettmann. “I think this year’s award is a little more meaningful.” Kettmann expressed the great pride the Independent’s staff had for winning the award and being recognized for their hard work.
Independent.com has developed exponentially since winning the EPPYs years ago. According to independent.com, the site is the area’s most visited community website, and has the largest online audience in Santa Barbara county. Their website receives approximately 12,000 page views a day.
“We put up anywhere from five to a dozen fresh stories a day on the site,” said Kettman. Keeping the website modern and engaging is sometimes difficult. “Initially, the biggest challenge was guiding the culture of the staff to appreciate and contribute to the web and see it as just as valuable as the print product, or at least approaching that value.”
The Independent is always careful about the content that is on the website.
“There are always things that drive up traffic naturally,” said Gahagan.
Many news organizations use sensationalist stories to increase their page views, such as coverage of pop stars escapades, but according to LeBlanc, “We’ve discussed that sort of thing and we’re going to stay away from it.”
Staff members from the Independent always try to improve their content and layouts.
“We’re a pretty small organization,” said LeBlanc, “so we do a lot of work and try to make it look presentable as best we can and be as timely as we can.”