Blog Post

A La Carte Media Hands Reins to News Consumers

But is it sustainable?
January 23, 2019

Last year, The Denver Post became the national poster child for how tough times at newspapers threatened access to quality local news.

Today, however, Denver news consumers can choose from a remarkably wide range of outlets (including a re-energized, if leaner, Denver Post).

It’s not an unprecedented number — the Colorado State Library’s Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection includes 250-plus newspapers published statewide from 1859 to 1923 — but it seems to go against the narrative that local media is in a death spiral.

Is this fragmented media landscape the new normal in American cities?

Today’s wide range of outlets gives consumers choice but also the responsibility to curate their news from a varied array of sources.

Gone are the days where a handful of editors at a dominant newspaper or two decided for the public what news was worth reading.

But questions remain whether this breadth of outlets is economically sustainable. Regular financial appeals — from both nonprofit and for-profit outlets — suggest a business model that depends on the benevolence of news consumers. That’s historically been part of a successful formula for public broadcasters but the appeals now come from a wider range of news sources.

By our count, the Denver metro area is now is home more than 50 media outlets that make at least some effort to gather news — not just opine — and publish/broadcast on a regular basis.

We’ve published a listing of Denver metro media outlets (below). Some outlets are online only, some broadcast on radio or TV, and some have print editions.

We’ve taken it one step further and listed their online reach, or unique monthly visitors, as reported by the Meltwater media monitoring service, to which we subscribe. This number indicates the potential total number of visitors to an outlet’s website per month, an estimated audience reach metric updated monthly.

Any exercise like this is imperfect/incomplete — it ignores broadcast or print reach — but the goal is to provide some sort of apples-to-apples comparison.

No doubt we’ve left out some media outlets so we welcome suggestions. We’re also inviting the listed news outlets to provide monthly unique visitors and time on site, which should be available to them through Google Analytics. Plus if an organization wants to comment on their numbers, we’ve created a field for that. To provide that info, please use our online form (link below).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Meltwater data show that legacy news organizations, led by The Denver Post, TV stations and Westword, the local long-standing alt-weekly, dominate in terms of their reach.

We welcome comments on the findings and methodology. We’re also curious how news consumers pick and choose from the options wherever they live. What is your daily news routine? How do you choose what is worth your time? What do you think the media landscape will look like in Denver or other cities nationally in five years?

Email me at Eric [at] SE2communications [dot] com with your thoughts and answers and we’ll make an effort to share them.

View the Denver Media Outlets list

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