AZPreps365.com has developed into a one-stop shop of sorts for Arizona high school sports fans. Schedules, scores, rankings, brackets, videos and more – the website has it all for prep aficionados.
Founded by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) in August 2008, AZPreps365 has undergone several facelifts that have helped it evolve from its beta stages to a website that now annually draws more than 14 million views. Consisting of only a small video player in its conception, the site has grown to its current state thanks to partnerships formed with The Arizona Republic, and later MaxPreps, that pushed viewers to AZPreps365.com for schedules and scores.
“That first year for us we had about 1.4 million page views for the year and that went up gradually the second year,” said Brian Bolitho, AIA director of business development. “It was about the third year, in 2011, that we determined we would be better fit if we had all of that content under our umbrella.”
A banner year occurred for AZPreps365.com in 2011-12. Views for the website reached 4.3 million before skyrocketing to 10.8 million views in 2012-13. Bolitho attributed the website’s success to its partnership-backed content and live streaming.
“In 2011-12 and going forward, we streamed well over 150 games a year, whether it be regular season football games, girls volleyball, basketball, going into the spring for baseball, softball.” Bolitho said. “We would stream every semifinal that we could, but at the very least, every championship game would be streamed live for everyone to watch.”
AZPreps365 is currently supported by three full-time reporters in Jose Garcia, Les Willsey and Andy Morales. Duties for the trio range from tweeting about games across the state and writing articles to providing analysis during AZPrep365’s Saturday morning radio show that airs from 9 to 11 a.m. on KTAR620.
“Our content continues to be enriched over time,” Bolitho said. “One of our main focuses [with hiring reporters] with AZPreps365 is we wanted to be able to tell a story first.”
Bolitho said it was important to the AIA that those reporters are a presence at board meetings that can act as a voice for the state association.
On social media, each reporter has his own AZPreps365 Twitter account that has helped the site better engage its audience. Bolitho said the AIA is assisted with social media tracking by a third party public relations firm. With so many people at AIA and AZPreps365 wearing different hats, Bolitho said having them around helps most notably when fan engagement peaks with the release of rankings.
“I don’t think you want social media just to be where people can go and create negative comments. You want to be able to have some feedback to them, and people appreciate that a lot more,” Bolitho said. “They feel engaged in the conversation and I think it gives them a better understanding if they don’t agree with what you say or how it works.”
While social media is one of the top priorities for Bolitho and his staff, he said time after time, website usability is where they focus their attention to improve viewership.
“I think the biggest thing is what content can you get the users to the quickest – what are they most interested in?” Bolitho asked. “If you have the users and it’s easy to find and it’s easy to get to, they’re going to use your site.
“We’re constantly trying to look out there and see what’s the leading trends and trying to take some of that and build on it to make the site just that much better.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department.