Colorado Political Newspaper Now Requires Subscription for Most Content

The Colorado Statesman, a weekly newspaper focusing on Colorado politics, celebrated its 118th birthday Thursday, with a party at the Governor's Mansion carriage house and the launch of a new website and business model.

In a short speech at the event, Statesman Publisher Jared Wright noted that the newspaper now has more capitol reporters than any other publication in Colorado.

That's part of reason, Wright hopes, that people will buy subscriptions to the publication, which run $13.25 per month ($159 per year) for print and digital together and $179 for a digital-access-only subscription. A 14-day trial is free.  This higher digital-only price incentivizes people to take the print-and-digital package, Wright says, because the print edition generates other ad revenue for the newspaper. Nonsubscribers now can only access AP and opinion pieces on the Statesman website, plus teasers about original content.

"We're getting a lot of people who are paying $30 more not to receive the print paper," said Wright. This is because they're buying the digital-only subscription. So, if you buy a subscription, and you should, do the Statesman a favor and buy the print and digital package.

Is there any model for success using this approach?

"There are a number of publications that are models, most of them are in DC, but the one in the West is the Arizona Capitol Times," Wright told me, who calls the Statesman "more of a trade journal than a traditional newspaper."

Asked if there's a date by which the publication must succeed or shut down, Wright said, "Things are looking good financially now, and will see how it goes."

A 20-minute program at last night's reception, moderated by 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman, featured speeches by former Republican Gov. Bill Owens and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, both of whom gushed about importance of the Statesman our era of diminished journalism generally and the death of the Rocky Mountain News in particular.

"The great thing about the Statesman is it's nonpartisan," said Hickenlooper in a video presented at the event. "It's pro-partisan, is phrase that somebody used [to describe it]. They want to encourage debate.... Overall, I wouldn't trade a strong media in the capitol for anything. I think it's essential.... Long live the Statesman."

Larry Mizel, who sources say owns a controlling interest in the newspaper, was also at last night's birthday event, chatting with GOP State Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) for a good bit. Mizel is a well-known Republican, and his involvement, along with his hiring of Wright, a former GOP lawmaker, as publisher, raised concerns among progressives about the newspaper's commitment to being fair and accurate. But so far, I don't see any ideological tilt in the Statesman's coverage. Its reporting staff, at least the ones I know, are highly regarded by both Democrats and Republicans.

Thursday's crowded reception attracted a bipartisan crowd including Cadman, Rep. Justin Everett, Rep. Alec Garnett, Rep. Crisanta Duran, Sen. Rollie Heath, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, Rep. Dan Pabon, Rep. Angela Williams, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar.