The award, presented in collaboration with the Annenberg School of Communication, is considered the highest honor of its kind, recognizing the website in given circulation categories that best "fulfills its editorial mission, effectively serves its audience, maximizes the unique ability of the web and represents the highest journalistic standards."
Beliefnet won the top award in the category of Independent websites (not affiliated with major news organizations), over 200,000 unique visitors. The award for general excellence for sites affiliated with news organizations went to ESPN.com.
"BeliefNet has taken one of the under-covered topics in American life, one which seems even more important to explore and understand in today's world, and developed a rich, interactive site which both breaks news and facilitates a dialog among a diverse community of users," the ONA judges stated in announcing the award.
In accepting the award, Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman thanked the ONA for it's acknowledgement of the importance of "journalism about religion and the spiritual lives of Americans."
He also noted that it was particularly gratifying because the company had been in bankruptcy during part of the period considered by the judges, and "Reporters were working on stories and editing the site without knowing whether they'd have jobs the next week," Waldman said. "The dedication was extraordinary."
Beliefnet emerged from Chapter 11 in October 2002 and has been profitable ever since, a fact Waldman attributes largely to high traffic and strong performance of advertising on the site.
Roughly one million "unique visitors" go to the site each month and 3.8 million people also subscribe to Beliefnet's free email newsletters. In all, there are 6.4 million subscriptions to the newsletters and Beliefnet sends out 185 million email newsletters per month.
Beliefnet also publishes books, provides spirituality content for AOL and assists ABCNews with its religion reporting.