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Current Publishing a star in community engagement

Despite all the negative media news focusing on layoffs, buyouts, folds, declining readership, and other hardships, not every newspaper struggles. Current Publishing, which launched its fifth paper in March in response to advertiser and community interest, shows there is still success to be had in the newspaper industry.

Current in Zionsville is the newest addition to the Indiana-based Current Publishing family. Just like the launches of Current editions in Westfield, Noblesville and Fishers, Current in Zionsville’s launch came at the urging of advertising partners within the community, Brian Kelly, Current Publishing president and publisher, said in an email interview. The only paper published by Current Publishing that was not launched based on advertiser interest was the flagship paper, Current in Carmel.

According to Indianapolis Business Journal, Current Publishing executive vice president and general manager Steve Greenberg said the Zionsville paper’s ad space for the entire back page and the bottom of the front page was sold out a year before the paper launched. With its newest paper, Current Publishing’s weekly circulation is now more than 104,000. “The success of our model specifically can be attributed to the fact that we base the content in our newspapers on independent market research,” Kelly said.

Before Current Publishing launches a new paper, the company polls people in the community to find out exactly what readers want to see in their local paper. According to Kelly, the combination of interested advertisers and printing exactly what readers want allows the company to live up to its internal motto: News is what our readers say it is. “Weeklies – especially those backed by research – can be all things to all people. Current’s model proves it,” said Kelly.

Current in Zionsville managing editor Derek Fisher agrees that the success of Current Publishing’s papers is all in the model. From his perspective on the editorial side, the model is a quality product paired with community engagement that lives up to the advertiser and community interest preceding the papers. “It’s successful because it looks good, it’s successful because it’s free, it’s successful because it kills other papers in circulation and last but not least, it’s successful because of its quality of content,” Fisher said in an email interview.

Community engagement is something he said Zionsville in particular didn’t have before Current came to town, which was obvious to him from the very beginning. “At almost every turn, every meet-and-greet, every handshake, there was an affirmation that, quite frankly, the incumbent news source just wasn’t satisfactory,” he said.

By publishing what the members of the community want to read and allowing them to engage in the content, they “become part of” the paper, which is something that makes Current Publishing’s papers unique. “We are the town’s paper, our content is their content and that’s certainly different from any other paper I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.

Fisher said he upholds Current’s model and maintains his connection to his readers and the community he covers by being consistent and present. “Staying connected is my weekly two-hour coffee shop stint, it’s replying to every email, it’s continuing to publish the things people want to see, it’s not forgetting what’s made Current go in other towns,” he said.

While both Kelly and Fisher understand that Current Publishing’s model might not work for every paper, especially struggling dailies, they still believe that papers like Current in Zionsville could very well be the future of the newspaper industry.

“Current couldn’t work everywhere; it lends itself best to smaller towns, obviously. But people like what we do, and the proof is in the pudding,” Fisher said. “Brian [Kelly] and Steve [Greenberg] were a step ahead of the game when they launched this franchise.”

–Julia Russell

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