Five Colorado news organizations to explore joint “‘Epic Pass’” marketing and membership pilot for local news 

Five Colorado newsrooms, representing a broad cross-section of media in the state, will be joining the Colorado Media Project this summer to explore a joint marketing and membership pilot project. 

The ultimate question we’ll be exploring together: can we develop a joint marketing and membership program that engages community and broadens support for newsrooms? 

The five newsrooms are: 

  • Chalkbeat Colorado is a nonprofit news organization that covers education issues for Denver and Colorado. It is part of a national network of newsrooms committed to covering one of America’s most important stories: the effort to improve schools for all children, especially those who have historically lacked access to a quality education.

  • The Colorado Sun is a journalist-owned Denver-based news outlet that strives to cover all of Colorado so that our state — our community — can better understand itself.

  • Durango Herald is a family-owned newspaper founded in 1881, based in southwestern Colorado. As the paper has worked to engage community in new ways, two years ago it launched Durango Diaries, an in-person storytelling series designed around citizens sharing stories on a variety of topics. 

  • Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, founded in 1893, is the largest newspaper in western Colorado, serving six counties. The paper recently acquired a radio station serving the area’s Latino population, and would like to publish more local news in Spanish.

  • KDNK Community Radio, based in Carbondale, serves the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond with 9 FM signals.  The station is a member of the Rocky Mountain Community Radio Coalition, which is comprised of 18 public radio stations in Colorado and Utah, which share regional news and state capitol coverage.

While we will start the project with this group, there will be opportunities for more newsrooms to join as the pilot campaign is tested and deployed.

More than 20 news organizations applied for spots in the pilot experiment – strong evidence that Colorado newsrooms are ready and willing to collaborate and experiment in today’s challenging business environment. The pilot is made possible with support from the Membership Puzzle Project, the Gates Family Foundation, and Democracy Fund (see all of Colorado Media Project’s supporters here). Together, we expect these newsrooms to break new ground in collaboration to support local news.

The spark for the project idea grew from research and design thinking workshops that Colorado Media Project organized in summer 2018, which showed a large, untapped market of Coloradans interested in local news, and one million of them willing to pay for it. Research also showed that in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, it’s getting harder for local newsrooms and stories to get noticed; and in an era of decreasing resources, it’s difficult for individual newsrooms to conduct the community listening and research important for deepening their reporting.

Participating newsrooms will work together to develop a prototype campaign that will be tested and refined, with the goal of pilot testing in fall 2019. Colorado Media Project will provide resources and recruit experts to help the newsrooms achieve their vision. More newsrooms will be invited to join as ideas are developed, and ultimately when a campaign is launched. 

Applications were evaluated with the help of numerous advisors, including: Eric Anderson, SE2 Communications; Gill Asakawa, CMP consultant; Chelsea Church and Scott Stemberger, Boston Consulting Group; Melissa Davis, Gates Family Foundation; Gail Klapper, Colorado Forum; Kay Lima, INN Labs, and Ariel Zirulnick, Membership Puzzle Project.