Leading up to the April 22-23 Local Media Association Digital Revenue Summit in Chicago where winners from the Local Media Digital Innovation Awards will be presented, we’ll be showcasing some of the winners and the great work that will be on display.

Today, we’re featuring The Statesman, which won for Best Local Website. The judges said this about their entry:

Great combination of digital elements, from strong original local reporting, to user generated content, original local entertainment content, and advanced media like drone video and podcasts.

We caught up with Courtney Sebesta, Senior Director of Audience Development, GateHouse Media, to learn more:

Podcasts are a big part of your website strategy. Can you tell us about a few of the more successful ones? We’ve had a long-running monetized entertainment podcast focused on local Austin culture called “I Love You So Much: The Austin360 Podcast” where our reporters talk about local food and drink, culture, music and all things “Austin.” 

We also feature locals doing interesting things in the community as well as interviews with celebrities passing through town. We’ve also broadcast directly from South by Southwest Conference and Festivals, giving our audiences a front-row seat to access they couldn’t get anywhere else.

Two of our longtime sports columnists started a Texas Longhorns-centric podcast called “On Second Thought” featuring all-things Longhorns sports. These two columnists have a long-running friendship and great chemistry together. The podcast frequently features a Longhorns sports legend, current and former Longhorns coaches, and engaging analysis that keeps readers downloading each week.

Austin360 Studio Sessions, which features live music performances, has been a real hit with your audience. How does it work and what kind of reach has it received?

Austin360 Studio Sessions takes advantage of Austin’s moniker of “Live Music Capital of the World” featuring live performances of local, regional and nationally touring musicians hosted in our Austin360 Studio at the Austin American-Statesman.

We live stream intimate and up-close performances to Facebook and our entertainment website followed by a short interview with the musician. Viewers love interacting with the host and musicians through Facebook Live. This initiative has been such a success for our team because of the great partnership between our sales and editorial departments who set expectations and formulas for success from idea conception. 

What’s been key to building a great local website? One of the biggest keys to our success has been utilizing analytics to help serve our readers with the kind of content they care about. Engagement leads to subscribers, our most important audience. We are also not afraid to try new ways of engaging with our audiences by creating innovative digital products, developing podcasts, newsletters and Facebook Groups like our Austin360 Book Club.

Is there any advice you would share with someone who wants to make improvements to their website today? Always focus on the needs of your audience. It sounds very cliche, but we shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, especially given the history of our industry. You shouldn’t worry about failing if you keep the goal of maintaining and generating different kinds of audiences at the forefront of everything you do.

Register today for the Digital Revenue Summit where we will be recognizing the best digital innovation in the industry.