On and off for the last year I have been following the fortunes of the Construction Enquirer, an online-only free news publication established in April 2010 by former print journalists Aaron Morby and Grant Prior. As the business model of traditional B2B industry publications has come under pressure from online sources, it has been interesting to watch the Enquirer‘s advertising-funded progress.
Earlier this week, I received an email from Aaron, marking the first anniversary of the Enquirer, highlighting its achievements to date and differentiating itself from established industry journals (such as Construction News and Building) whose online content is largely hidden behind paywalls:
“… Our expanding readership means we already enjoy 300,000 page views per month from 50,000 unique users. More than 6,000 people receive our daily newsletter with new subscribers signing-up at the rate of 150+ a week.
Our free model is proving popular with people who are not convinced of the value of websites which charge a subscription fee.
The Enquirer also provides a great platform to promote your services and products to our vast audience of contractors, clients and specifiers. Online advertising is the growing trend in the industry providing a targeted way to reach new customers with easily-measured response rates….”
The Enquirer‘s online growth has been partly fuelled by its engagement with social media or Web 2.0. It made a faltering start (see Construction Enquirer misses Twitter trick), but quickly responded to my constructive criticism (see update) and also, eventually, overcame a technical hitch which stopped its Twitter feed working properly for at least four months (see above).
By September 2010, it had 2, 250 subscribers and was growing at 200 a week (its latest numbers therefore suggest some deceleration), and it had 623 Twitter followers – despite not even mentioning its @ConstructionEnq Twitter account in its website. In my humble opinion, guys, this is a mistake; you should be highlighting your Twitter account, and not just using it to broadcast the latest news.
The quality of its website design and its suitability for mobile devices also meant it was one of the first sites I subscribed to when I started using the MyTaptu service on my Android smartphone (post). The Enquirer also shares its content on construction industry business networking site, tCn: The Construction Network.
As at 11.30am, yesterday, @ConstructionEnq has 1,481 Twitter followers, and coincidentally had done 1,481 tweets (the vast majority scheduled between about 7.30am and 10am, Monday to Friday), but I think it could dramatically boost this figure and generate still further ‘word of mouse’ recommendations for its e-newsletter and online service if it actively cultivated its Twitter presence. OK, it now follows 769 people, but – as far as I can see – its writers have never engaged in an online conversation via Twitter (TweetStats shows no @replies and no RTs). Creating a Wordle of its Tweets shows the words that get used most are all to do with its news update service.
For The Construction Index, Twitter matters
Contrast this, for example, with a rival online-only service, The Construction Index, also managed by a former print journalist Phil Bishop (post). Of course, this is a very different kind of website – news is just a part of a much wider offering including search, tenders and jobs – but its publisher is not reticent about engaging via social media. Its Facebook page and @TCIndex Twitter account are both linked from the top of the home page, it has accumulated 2,047 followers and follows 1,027 Tweeters, and it has done over 4,500 tweets, often engaging in conversations. As a result, its following on Twitter has also been growing much more quickly than that of Construction Enquirer.
I talked to The Construction Index’s publisher Paul Buist, and he was optimistic about his site’s future, having recently commissioned some research from HitWise that showed his site accumulating more web traffic than the Emap websites of Construction News and New Civil Engineer put together.
Paul said the TCI daily e-newsletter is currently going to nearly 4,900 subscribers (the weekly newsletter has over 7,000 subscribers), while the site itself delivered almost 1.7 million page impressions last month (March 2011) – more than three times as many as the 503,000 Construction News website claims (unfortunately, I don’t have figures for what website page views CNplus achieved before imposing its paywall). NCE claims 465,000 page impressions per calendar month, while the other main industry weekly, Building magazine, claims 864,000 monthly page impressions.
And underlining my point about its importance, Twitter is the seventh most popular referral site for traffic to The Construction Index, generating a useful 1,631 visits in the past 30 days (Facebook was eighth, referring 1,482 visitors to the site) – though the site referrals are, of course, only part of the brand-building benefit that TCI gains from its Twitter engagement.