Interview: Kristen Richards of ArchNewsNow

Since 2002, ArchNewsNow has provided thousands of readers with a daily email update on what's happening in the world of architecture and design. We talked with the founder and editor, Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, about how she selects content, the role that she's played to connect the architecture community around the globe, and where she sees ANN going in the next ten years. Congratulations to Kristen on the success of ANN and its 10th Anniversary.

AAO: How did you get started with ArchNewsNow (ANN)?

Kristen Richards (KR): I edited a similar webzine/newsletter for two years and developed an international readership hungry for news of the A/E/C industry from around the world. When the tech bubble burst and it went offline, I realized I had a fantastic opportunity to fill a void. A big plus was that the proprietary search engine I used was developed by my husband, George Yates -- a brilliant software designer/developer, so I already had a system in place. We launched February 18, 2002 -- about two weeks after I left the first online publication.

AAO: These days, lots of us take ANN for granted as one of the best go-to sources for architecture news. Thinking about the early years, what was the turning point when you knew it would be successful?

KR: The first time I felt we really had a shot was when the incredibly talented environmental graphic design firm Calori & Vanden-Eynden/Design Consultants (known for its graphics, signage, and wayfinding programs for notable projects such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the DC Heritage Trail, and Acela) contacted me very shortly after launching and offered to create a logo and style for ANN (which was much needed). The home page with our new look and first two features posted less than a month after starting the newsletter (and I am forever grateful).

I knew we were on the right track when Planetizen and Crain's Detroit named ANN one of their Best Websites of the Year in 2002 -- before we'd even been up and running for a year.

AAO: What's your best guess on the total article count since you started ten years ago?

KR: Feature article count is easy -- they're numbered, and we're nearing the 400 mark. I've posted well over 2,300 daily newsletters that average around 18-20 news links a day -- a guesstimate would at least 46,000 articles (give or take a few).

AAO: What is the process that you go through each day? How do you select content?

KR: My day starts around 6:30 a.m. with a strong cuppa coffee, a hug to my cats (George is still asleep), and making sure the bird feeder is filled. Then it's off to the Internet. I scan about 200 news stories every morning to come up with what I consider the Top 20. I love it when a thread emerges, tying a theme or trend or project type together. Keeping the readership (and my own focus) in mind, news stories, opinions, and reviews covering everything from urban and environmental issues to just really cool (or absurd) stuff will make the cut.

AAO: Because the newsletter format is digital, it can reach a large and diverse audience. How have you seen the community grow? Any advice for our AAO audience about how to increase readership of digital communications?

KR: I keep tabs on new subscribers (and the "unsubscribes"). ANN has about 16,000 subscribers to the daily newsletter; another 5,000-8,000 access it directly from the newsletter's web page. In addition to the list being an amazing gathering of international architectural talent (that just thrills me!), a great satisfaction is the number of architects and planners in government agencies, educational and cultural institutions, and real estate developers from around the world (and many send me tips about great stories!). Perhaps what excites me most is when I see educators and students subscribe, particularly when they hail from a country such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, and other countries in conflict or under severe rule. It gives me hope -- these students are our future.

My best advice to the AAO audience: if you have a website and you either use or someone suggests using Flash, don't! Your website will never be picked up by any search engine (Google or ANN). They are also most welcome to contact me directly with story ideas, links to interesting items they've posted, or questions:

AAO: You've been honored by a number of different organizations for your work. What specifically have they recognized about the value of ANN? What's the most interesting feedback that you've received?

I can't express how honored I am to have received Honorary membership in both the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Landscape Architects. I don't see how one can really separate the two professions in the built environment, and I make every effort to call out the synergy between the two.

The most interesting feedback: the scores of e-mails that come in asking if everything is o.k. when I miss a day without an editor's note alerting readers the day before. Those e-mails keep me setting that alarm every morning.

AAO: This June will mark one year since you started curating "Watercooler," the monthly A+DEN eNews for our members interested in K-12 design education. What have you taken from this experience?

KR: For me, it's a marriage made in heaven. During my 10-year tenure at Interiors magazine, I was called the "education editor." And since 2003, I've had the privilege of serving as editor of the AIANY Chapter's quarterly journal, Oculus and, for its first three years, the electronic newsletter, e-Oculus. I've learned so much (and have so much fun) working with the Center for Architecture Foundation's indefatigable team.

In doing ANN, I come across so many wonderful stories about architectural education for the K-12 generation that inspire me, but don't really fit ANN. Watercooler is an incredibly rewarding way to help "get the word out." I look forward to developing the dialogue with -- and among -- AAO/A+DEN members (and hope they spread the word, too!).

You can subscribe to Kristen's daily posts by visiting

Posted by aao on March 28, 2012 - 3:39pm