The Arizona Republic, 12 News, and azcentral.com are giving iPad users a new way to engage with local news.

Like most legacy media outlets, Republic Media is striving to hold onto print readership while simultaneously building a profitable digital audience.

To better serve that digital audience, Republic Media launched AZ, a news magazine created specifically for the iPad, with plans to add versions for Kindle and Android tablet devices in the coming months. 

Through January, the tablet magazine will publish once a week. In early 2013, the magazine will publish more frequently, with the goal of publishing Monday through Friday.

The magazine comes amid Republic Media’s move to a full-access subscription model. This year, The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com began asking readers to pay to subscribe to content in all its forms, on many platforms. In return, the newsroom would deliver more — more great storytelling, more watchdog reporting, more great multi-media. 

The app is free until February, when it will be included with every full-access subscription for everyone who owns an iPad.  

The goal for AZ is simple and colossal: Create a must-read publication every day.

It’s not an attempt to create a tablet version of the newspaper or the Web site — successful azcentral apps already deliver news and sports for the iPad.

Instead, it’s something completely different.

Each edition of the iPad magazine is divided into four sections:

  • Gallery features a summary of the week’s news in brief.

  • Captivate provides in-depth news and features.

  • Sports includes weekly highlights and commentary on games and athletes.

  • Amuse offers entertainment, lifestyle, and humorous content.
All AZ content is interactive to a degree not previously possible on a Republic Media format, says Keira Nothaft, a senior director in Republic Media's Information Center and leader of the tablet project: “What we are trying to do is make our magazine immersive. It’s a very tactile, interactive experience.”

A recent study by media consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates Inc. projected that by March, 47% of Internet users in the United States will have regular access to a tablet device. That’s up from just 12% in 2011.

Among tablet users, 67% said they use their tablet in the home, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., according to the study, which included a survey of 2,540 U.S. Internet users ages 8 to 64 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2%.

Republic Media’s strategy is to time the publication of AZ to when people are using their tablets the most, in the evening, with time to lean back and sink into immersive reads, enjoy beautiful photography and play with fun, interactive features.

While AZ will draw on content produced by the Republic newsroom, as well as original photo, video and text, it will go far beyond a typical duplication of a newspaper Web site. Editors will create, curate, and tailor the content for the tablet, keeping in mind the different demands and pleasures afforded by the digital reading experience.

Republic Media is offering a limited number of advertising positions in the new tablet magazine. Opposite of traditional newspaper strategies where more is better, the new product is built around high-impact exclusive ad positions with breakout creative.

The response to AZ, has been resoundingly positive — in an era when tech-heavy readers have higher expectations than ever before. The app is available from the Apple App Store and it’s free until February. You can search under AZ Today or click here to find it.