Open call for Colorado newsroom partners

Join us to explore joint marketing and membership pilot for local news

DEADLINE EXTENSION: We are extending the deadline for applications for our open call for Colorado newsrooms to join us in a joint marketing and membership pilot. The deadline is extended from Monday, June 17 at 11:59 pm to Thursday, June 20 at 11:59 pm. Submit via our online application form. For additional information, we encourage you to consult our open call announcement, and subsequent webinar Q&A

And an update: many newsrooms have asked us about the time commitment for this project. We are updating our estimate to approximately 10-15 hours per month, with some variations depending on the stage of the project. We have added an in-person, one-day design-sprint workshop on July 25, 2019, in Denver, for our five participating news organizations. This gathering will give us a chance to get to know each other face-to-face and come up with some short-term goals for testing, with facilitators 
Amy Kovac-Ashley, the director of newsroom learning for American Press Institute, and Stephanie Snyder, Industry Growth & Innovation Lead for Hearken. Colorado Media Project will cover travel costs for participants outside the Denver area.

The Colorado Media Project seeks five adventurous Colorado news organizations to join as partners in a pilot project where we will co-create and test a joint marketing and membership program for homegrown, local news. Each selected news organization will receive $5,000 for participating in this project, which includes a “summer sprint” period for research, message testing, and campaign design. The goal: launch of pilot campaign in fall 2019 with initial results reported by Dec. 31, 2019.

Audience research shows a large, untapped market of Coloradans interested in local news and one million of them would pay for it. Yet with an increasingly fragmented media landscape, it’s getting harder for local newsrooms and stories to get noticed. If we work together, can we help local Colorado news organizations reach more people?

Our shorthand for this project has been “‘Epic or Ikon’ pass for local news.” We know  Coloradans enjoy the opportunity to explore different Colorado ski areas with a single multi-mountain ski pass. These passes make it easy for you to try a new mountain you might otherwise skip. Perhaps when you explore this mountain, it becomes your new favorite. We think a joint push on local news could work similarly. Perhaps you’ll read stories from a new source, like them–and then decide that you will support that news organization in the future. Thanks to generous support from the Membership Puzzle Project, Colorado Media Project has the opportunity to explore this idea with several intrepid news organizations.

What does membership in a news organization look like? “Membership isn’t just “subscription by another name…,” write Emily Goligoski and Matt Thompson in a recent report for Membership Puzzle Project. “It’s participation in a larger cause that reflects what they want to see in civil society.” In other words, membership isn’t about “I pay this and I get that,” but rather about supporting an organization or cause because we believe in it. We aspire to create a pilot that will increase that sense of ownership and investment in Colorado’s local news organizations based on a sense of ownership and investment in Colorado’s communities.

Questions and ideas we may explore together:

  • Is homegrown local news like microbrew, local ski areas, or the Rockies? Will Coloradans support their home teams for local news?

  • How might news organizations partner with arts and culture and other civic organizations to reach Coloradans who are not yet familiar with them?

  • What types of messages work to encourage people to engage with and support local news, and how do these differ by community?

  • How might newsrooms better reach marginalized or under-represented communities, and reflect their concerns in the work that they do?

  • How will people encounter this joint campaign? Should we create a landing page, a chat bot, or some other means?

  • Ultimately, can a joint marketing and membership program increase revenue for all?

We don’t know the answers to all of these questions – but in this project we’ll begin to explore them, with the help of experts and with careful testing. We will share what we learn, including any lessons on strategies tried and failed, for the collective good. If successful, Colorado Media Project will seek additional funding to expand this project and invite more Colorado news organizations to join.

Participating news organizations will help Colorado Media Project co-design the marketing and membership model throughout summer 2019, support the fall launch and participate in continued iteration of the program based on user feedback.

Benefits & Expectations: Each participating local news organization will receive $5,000 for participating in this project ($2,500 at the start of the project; $2,500 upon completion). In return, each news organization will be expected to meet commitments:

  • Designate at least one point staff person to participate in regular (weekly or biweekly) meetings. Participants should be adventurous, open to experimentation, willing to revise based on public feedback, and have an interest in telling the story of their newsrooms to support long-term sustainability.

  • Designate reasonable staff resources toward research, creation, and implementation of the campaign.

  • Commit to local newsroom participation in project, including using own properties and channels to promote campaign.

Deadline: June 17, 2019 11:59 p.m. Mountain Time

Applicants will receive notice of acceptance no later than July 2, 2019

Who is eligible: This project will be most successful if news organizations of all types, sizes, audiences, and locations participate. To that end, we are seeking a diverse group of Colorado news organizations: nonprofit and for-profit; rural and urban; large and small; digital native and legacy media; ethnic media of all types; and outlets focused on specific topics or produced for general appeal.

How to apply: Please follow this link to fill out online application.

Questions? We will host a webinar on Wednesday, June 5, from 12-1:00 pm, where we will be available to answer questions about this project. Let us know you are coming by registering here, and we will send you login information. You may also contact us at

The Colorado Media Project works to strengthen Colorado’s diverse local news ecosystem, by building newsroom capacity, supporting collaboration, and engaging communities in the journalism that strengthens our democracy. CMP is an independent, grant-funded project housed at Denver University’s Project X-ITE.

The Membership Puzzle Project is a research effort based at New York University. It supports news organizations experimenting with new revenue models, different types of audience participation, new governance models and citizen engagement.

Read more here:

For thoughts on how news organizations can learn from other member-driven movements, read this: