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Hyperlocal Publisher Shout Out: The AVTimes

by: Elizabeth Harrington, on Feb 8, 2013 in Publisher Shout Outs

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Our featured publisher for this week is The AV Times .  Antelope Valley is located in northern Los Angeles County, California and the southeast portion of Kern County, California, and constitutes the western tip of the Mojave Desert.  The Antelope Valley Times was founded in August 2011 as an online, community news forum for the Antelope Valley community. Offering up-to-the-minute, unbiased news and information about what is happening in the Antelope Valley, conveyed in a lively, engaging way.

We caught up with publisher Makeda Dilworth who shared with us some lessons and tips:

LYM: What has been one of your proudest moments/breakout successes with your site?

MD: “A proud moment for my news site was when the Huffington Post referenced one of our stories and linked to us. We were only six months old at the time, so I was totally psyched that a publication as large as that one was actually acknowledging us as a credible media source. The resulting explosion of web traffic was an added bonus. Since that initial link, we have had other notable publications and television news stations reference our articles or request to use our photos. But nothing has matched that initial surge of excitement I felt when I saw that a publication I had read faithfully for years had actually acknowledged my then-fledgling publication!

Another proud moment for my site was when we published a “Most Wanted” crime story in the afternoon, and by nighttime, the suspect’s family members had contacted law enforcement to give up the suspect’s location. The fact that this all happened before the story hit the mainstream local newspaper the next day, meant that my online paper was the reason for the arrest. It was a proud moment when I realized that my paper and its readership had made a difference in my community.”

LYM: What has been your biggest challenge?

MD: “My biggest challenge has been balancing the administrative end of things (see making money!) with my passion to report the news. Since we have such a small team, I am the main writer and I also edit all stories from freelancers. I am heavily involved in promoting the news site to the public and to potential advertisers, as well. Basically, I do it all! When my head is spinning with all these details, it’s really hard to get my creative juices flowing to write great news stories.”

LYM:  How did/do you address this challenge/what has happened as a result?

MD: “This challenge is a daily struggle, but I’ve managed to get things under control by designating a couple of hours each day to concentrate ONLY on writing and editing, with no distractions – no phones, no interruptions, nothing. I have also learned to better manage my time. I create a checklist each night for the next morning, and I try to stick to it. But most importantly, I don’t beat myself up when I cannot get everything done in one day. It’s less stressful that way.”

LYM: If you could do it all over again with the knowledge you have today, what would you do differently?  And Why?

MD: “If I had to do it all over again, I would have trusted in my talents, trusted that I could be successful and given this project my fulltime attention from the very beginning. When I first started, I had one foot in this project, and the other in a traditional job because I was afraid to take the risk. I definitely would be much further along than I am now, had I just taken the plunge from the very beginning.

Additionally, I did not take any advertisers on my news site for the first eight months because I was under the misguided notion that I needed to build an audience first. If I had it to do again, I would have begun marketing my news site to advertisers right away and allowed my advertisers to grow with me.”

LYM: Do you have any advice or tips you would like to share with fellow hyperlocal online publishers?

MD: “Don’t try to be everything to all your readers. You can’t. You will spread yourself thin and wear yourself out. Find your niche and be passionate about it, and you will gain a loyal following of like-minded readers. If you are passionate and doing what you love, it shouldn’t feel like “work.” Good luck!”

Thanks so much Makeda for sharing!

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