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The growing popularity of social video platforms, podcasts and direct email as news sources has prompted us to beef up our digital offerings.

While all our journalists have digital responsibilities built into their routines, PinalCentral’s leadership team in this area falls on two people: Digital Director Brian Kramer and former Coolidge reporter Rofida Khairalla, who is our new digital news coordinator.

Brian oversees Blossom Digital Marketing, the newest division within Kramer Media. He manages our digital products and advertising for PinalCentral as well as contracted services such as video production and website creation. Rofida directs our specific digital content that includes special video programing, podcasts, newsletter curation as well as promotion and coordination of our social media platforms.

There has been a lot of doom and gloom in the newspaper industry lately, but some companies like ours are beginning to see a positive return on our diversification that has created a new sense of optimism, both in short-term benefits and long-term planning.

This summer PinalCentral saw record web traffic. The key to our digital efforts lies in subscriptions, just as it did in the old print business model. Digital-only subscribers to PinalCentral are up over 80% since January and 104% year-over-year. Digital advertising is up, especially from political candidates in the weeks leading up to the primary. But Brian says that is only part of the digital business.

“Our website advertising has been strong but digital marketing services is really taking off. We’re hitting new records frequently and I see this as another key part of our company’s long-term success,” Brian said. “Our value proposition here is that we’re local and produce tremendous value in a market that is in high demand.”

Here is a breakdown on our current and future digital offerings:

Newsletters: Daily Headlines has doubled and we just launched Weekend Headlines. Rofida is in charge of creating and promoting this daily link to interesting stories and content on PinalCentral. The daily newsletter already has more than 11,000 subscribers.

Video Mini Series: The first installment of a three-part summer weather program produced by Rofida and videographer Nick Arnold went up this weekend. The series includes interviews with monsoon experts, DPS troopers and even a Pinal storm chaser. The series can be viewed directly on Facebook and other social media, YouTube and PinalCentral.

Rec Talk: On hold with the pandemic, but it reaches a diverse, younger audience about events and recreation in Casa Grande.

Podcasts: PinalCast, hosted by reporter Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa, has focused on political candidates so far. It has been moderately successful in enhancing subscriber value, but Brian says he is looking forward to future programs such as Retro Rewind, a sports audio show hosted by Sports Editor Brian Wright and reporter Maria Vasquez. The first installment will premier next week and involve interviews with former Casa Grande Union High School quarterbacks Denis Fitzgibbons and Kevin White. After the election, Suzanne, who is now our justice reporter, will shift gears to “true crime,” looking at Pinal cold cases as well as high-profile trials.

Blossom projects: We’ve built several websites, are going to be working with the city and chamber on launching the Casa Grande “Love It” brand and are producing videos for the Natural Resource Education Center that will be shown to kids in local classrooms (or on computers) who can’t take field trips this year.

“Some companies, ours included, have a short-term plan to achieve enough digital subscribers to pay for their newsrooms. When you do that, you can sustain the journalism business,” Brian said.

Brian stresses the company is not abandoning its print strategy, just supplementing it with investments in the digital future.

“We’ve had success, despite challenges from all directions, and that’s energizing for me to witness.”

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You can reach Brian Kramer at bkramer@wmicentral.com and Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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