Becoming Professional: A Blog

Publishing, a Local Paper Case Study with AZCentral

Posted on: May 10, 2011


AZCentral logo

Large newspapers and magazines are posting digital versions of themselves online and in app stores, but what about the small guys? The national papers seem to be surfing this digital wave with an okay success rate. They aren’t wiping out much, lately. But what about the local papers?

How is, for example, my home town’s AZCentral doing? It calls itself “Arizona’s Home Page” and is the digital version of the Arizona Republic, the largest local paper in circulation in the capital city of Phoenix. But how is it coping with the digital revolution? Is it riding high or wiping out?

This is a look at how a smaller, less well-known newspaper is adapting to digital. Sometimes it’s good to look at something other than the celebrities once and a while.

A Bit of Background

According to the website’s About section, the news website AZCentral is the digital arm of the Arizona Republic, the oldest and largest news publisher in the state with over 110 years of history. It reaches about 1.5 million readers per week and is one of the top 20 dailies in circulation in the country. The website itself is the most active website in Arizona. It allows users to catch up on the most recent news, surf job listings, look for new real estate, entertainment news, and community information, amongst other topics.

However, perhaps more important than the strength of the brand is the fact that my little hometown newspaper is owned by a national company, Gannett Co, Inc.

How Digital Is This Digital Site?

AZCentral screen captureAs you can see from the above image, it is basically a digital version of the newspaper. This is rather to be expected. Most online newspapers are like this.

But we can still see how digital has wormed its way into how this online news source operates.

  • Most Read The lists of articles can be sorted, and not just based on the publisher’s opinions. They can also be sorted based on how popular an article is. The users can create their own customer experiences.
  • Update Recently? The website also says when a category of articles was last updated. Speed is critical online where people want, and expect, up-to-the minute news availability. This is one way that a news publisher can gain respect and loyalty from an audience. (Though I always wonder how good fact checking is done at this speed…)image of the share function on azcentral
  • Easy Sharing One of the differences I noted between digital and traditional publishing is well in evidence – the ability to easily share articles.
  • moms like meContent From Other Sources AZCentral is also snagging content from other places. Because the owning company is so large, they present a “Moms” tab for a category on their homepage, but it leads to the website below.
  • Comments Anyone? AZCentral is also offering readers the ability to comment and “Make your voice heard.” However, I think it is worth noting that they don’t have a forum.

comments feature on AZcentral

In general, AZCentral is actually quite digital, to an extent. They are using the tools available to make sure that their news gets out with easy sharing. They are saving their budgets by snagging content from partners like MomslikeMe, and they are creating a reputation for speedy news by showing off how quickly they update their sections. They are even allowing for a customizable experience in some respects, like how news is sorted.

But I am worried. They have no community. They allow for comments but I highly doubt they act on them. Most comments are rather banal, like we’re used to seeing on news sites, and are not always allowed, such as on political articles like this one about President Obama. Though honestly, I can’t blame them for that. It would just deteriorate into a name calling fest.

The Future for AZCentral?

The future is an unwritten book. AZCentral is doing several good things, but as I described in my article on what exactly is publishing, though the message is very important, the community that feeds on that message is also important. AZCentral doesn’t have much of a way for readers to develop that community.

They are also spread out very thinly. The website covers a lot of content, but I, for one, never went there for anything but entertainment news and things to do around the city. In fact, the events section is the only section where they allow direct reader participation. Individuals can submit events for free to their calendar. They do not even have a blogs section so that their individual staff writers can develop their own personal brands. I fear that their brand is a bit diluted and they could do with a bit of trimming. After all, if my hunch is correct and entertainment is what they are good at, why do the rest of it? Just link to another source and save the money.

*This post was written as part of an assignment for my

Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School,

but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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