Big success from a small newsroom: How the Auburn Examiner uses Stacker

Big success from a small newsroom: How the Auburn Examiner uses Stacker
Auburn, Washington—home of the Auburn Examiner—sits just east of Tacoma, with sweeping views of Mount Rainier. Photo Credit: GeorgeColePhoto // Shutterstock

Stacker works with publishers large and small. We aim to empower journalists and bolster their newsroom with relevant, impactful content that engages their audiences and provides them with the necessary time and resources to build their own cadre of content offerings.

We asked Elizabeth Miller, founder and editor of the Auburn Examiner, to share her experience partnering with Stacker. We first met Elizabeth in 2021 through Stacker's partnership with the Local Media Consortium.

Elizabeth Miller (Auburn Examiner):

Auburn, Washington, is a medium-sized suburban town situated between Seattle and Tacoma. It is the kind of town where you can be out to dinner or walk down Main Street and run into a friend, but it's not so small that everyone will know your business.

A bustling town like Auburn is excellent for a small, independent outlet like the Auburn Examiner. Auburn's diversity allows our outlet to tell rich stories from our community while also covering larger stories that matter.

The Auburn Examiner is a local news outlet, so we don't have a pointed focus. While this provides our readers with more variety, it also means that we are spread pretty thin. I have wonderful volunteers, but they all have other jobs and cannot commit full-time to contributing to the Auburn Examiner. That means, as a solopreneur I wear both the business hat and the journalist hat. To prevent conflict, I often have to wear both hats separately.

As not just a solopreneur but a disabled individual as well, having Stacker has been a boon to me. It helps keep me on track and maintains the quality of our content. It allows me vital breathing room, as I know there will always be ready-to-go, quality content on deck to publish. Stacker's easy-to-navigate and use system has been fantastic for days I'm unable to work due to my disability.

Stacker also keeps the Auburn Examiner relevant with content our local competitors can't match. When it comes to dollars and resources, having the content from Stacker doesn't just give me a leg up. It also gives the Auburn Examiner access to content and data our audience wants. My print competitors don't have and can't provide this kind of valued content, whereas we are 100% online and do not have space issues to consider.

Auburn needs to know how they tie into the regional and national landscape. Being so close to a major metropolitan city—Seattle—most local coverage relates to what’s going on there.

Content from Stacker allows us to provide readers with national stories that we do not have the resources to cover without such a narrow perspective. Stacker Local enhances this and provides stories from neighboring cities, bringing in new readers that we may not have been able to pull in otherwise.

Stacker helped the Auburn Examiner provide its readership with more lighthearted and engaging content during the pandemic and garnered AE positive feedback. Our readers love lists! They want to know where the best breweries are or which city has the worst commute—especially if Auburn or a nearby town ends up on one of those lists. And they come back for future lists to see if their city has made another one.

I've received very positive responses to the Black History Month content. Stacker was ready with a plethora of historically rich content. For example, the Black athletes and sports history lists made timely posts during the Super Bowl and the Olympics. These are things I don't have the resources or, truly, the time to provide yet. But this is important content that engages Auburn Examiner readers in fun and interesting content.

As an added benefit, this type of content will also improve the SEO, analytics, and engagement for the Auburn Examiner website, social media, and daily RSS newsletter. When our daily newsletter uses the headline of a Stacker article as the subject, it consistently gets clicks and opens. Many of the lists have sparked some fun back and forth on our social media. People want to know what happened the year that they were born or the most popular Christmas toy. This positive impact is all due to Stacker’s invaluable data, which attracts readers and advertisers.

Much of Stacker's content can tie directly to current issues we are covering, bolstering our original content. For example, our state legislature is considering a bill related to the use of Narcan and the broader issue of opioids in our communities. That article sparked a heated debate on our social media. A recent Stacker article listing 10 opioid-related documentaries will be an ideal companion to that story, and I expect the conversation to heat up again.

Leveraging content in this nature makes social media, which can be the bane of an independent publisher's existence, work to our advantage in getting information in front of our audience. Some people will read the headline and comment—many of those comments are ugly and uninformed. The ugly comments can ignite the algorithm so that the content gets to the people that will take the time to read the article, because they do care. No one likes it, but too often, you have to play the game in order to survive in a suffocating industry. Thankfully, Stacker is a pretty great teammate.

What makes it even better for me is that the Stacker system makes it easy—just a couple of clicks, and I can quickly post or schedule content that is timely, interesting, and fun.

With limited resources, having the ability to automate things in this way keeps the Auburn Examiner going when I am out of the office. Small business owners and small newsrooms like mine desperately need tools to remove the worry of how the business can continue to run even when you're not there. A service like Stacker, along with a robust CMS, and other tools are invaluable to the Auburn Examiner.

Even though I am just a single individual with a small paper, the response time from my contacts at Stacker is within hours, and I'm spoken to on an equal level, like I matter. On more than one occasion, I have been dismissed by others (who shall remain nameless) once it is discovered that I am a small local outlet and cannot do as much for them as they can do for me.

It's important to remember that capital is not just monetary. When you're a small business, especially a young, small business, you're fighting many obstacles. You must find help where you can. As a growing news outlet, I use a multitude of tools not just to survive but to grow. Stacker's content and the Stacker team are a part of an important toolbox that helps remove barriers and gain access, giving the Auburn Examiner a clear path for success and growth.

We've love to give a huge thanks to Elizabeth and the Auburn Examiner team for producing impactful coverage for their community and being a great partner.

If you're interested in becoming a Stacker publishing partner, contact us at