Print vs online: the challenge of delivering our promise to be truly local

Noah Kutz is a French and Global Studies major at ASU, and serves on our staff as a Community Outreach Coordinator.

I love fishing — though I must admit that my skills have little to do with casting a line in the water and are best suited for fishing through various ocean documentaries on Netflix. From my perusing, I’ve learned about the Angler fish, which deceives its prey by dangling a bioluminescent light in front of its mouth to lure unsuspecting fish into an ominous toothy trap.

Well, dear reader, that morsel of information caused me to think more about the job I do with our little newspaper and how there might be a lesson of sorts that I could share with you.

I began to realize that some of us may be innocent and unsuspecting targets in a vast sea of news organizations and media outlets, in which big companies and advertisers with huge budgets have become that ominous angler fish, luring and misleading you into the various corners of the internet.

This is not our intent at Wrangler News, where our number one goal is to provide news and information about your community, your schools and churches, and your neighborhood happenings. The last thing we want to do is widen the great divide between online news and newspaper news, a split that has never been greater.

Major newspapers worldwide have been forced into this age of online distribution in order to gather barely enough ad revenue to stay alive. The endless game of acquiring more views and more clicks on ads, stories and websites revolves almost exclusively on you, the reader.

Although large companies boast of their dedication to your interests, in the end your interests are only fueled by what lies between the creases of your wallet.

The big news purveyors want the advertisers’ money and the advertisers want your money. It’s that simple.

So what do we do to counteract this?

Our answer is written on the front page of each newspaper we print: “Tempe & West Chandler, the place we call home.” Although it is true that without our advertisers we wouldn’t be able to produce this little hometown paper, we stay alive because of you, the people of Tempe and West Chandler—our home.

You will never find a story in this paper that does not have a correlation to our (your) community. Our goal is to bind together a group of people who care about the various aspects of each other’s lives, from the local news to the local businesspeople.

Rather than finding the “juiciest” stories that other news outlets cover in order to generate more views and clicks on their website, we focus on the good things that happen in our community and how those stories appeal directly to our readers.

Advertisers value this in our paper. We don’t simply seek to generate a number of clicks or views on each ad; we have real people with real needs who really care about their town and the local businesses within it.

So how are we different online?

We’ve grown substantially on this side of the house (most recently, over 50%). You may have seen our advertisers featured on our website, and in days to come you’ll also see that we’re utilizing social media more heavily.

In recent months, our data analytics team has seen a spike in the number of unique visitors that come to our website and read our stories. We also send a weekly newsletter via email to show our top stories and full e-Edition.

On top of these efforts, we’ve simply begun to hone in on what we feel is most important for our community as it relates to our online presence.

We seek to find out how each top story relates specifically to our readers, and how they might find our content more useful and satisfying. So with that we ask you to do two things to help us become a better newspaper for our community:

First, if you see something you think would become a nice feature in the paper, tell us about it. We’d love to have you among our contributors, whether as an aspiring writer or simply a source of ideas.

Call, email or stop by our office and tell us what you think is most important for our hometown. Finally, don’t fall for tricks from the big fish who claim to care about you. Ask yourself what “local” means to you and if some of your information outlets may fall into this category.

Beware the predator who lures and misleads its prey, then snaps when we’re least expecting it. At Wrangler News our goal is to be on a seaworthy journey around our community, not pounce on opportunities for sensationalism hook, line and sinker.

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