Sunday, July 20, 2008

Aspen Daily News marks 30 years

The Aspen (Colorado) Daily News is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a number of stories in its July 20 edition about its history. (See "Editor's Note," "The road to relevancy," Muckraking publisher looks back, "Who needs advertising?" and a time capsule from 1978.)

While it wasn't the first free daily, in this era where media outlets are repeatedly bought and sold, the Aspen Daily News has had the same owner since the beginning, Dave Danforth.

The paper has an independent streak, it tackles controversial subjects and takes pride in the fact that its news coverage has cost it advertisers. The paper's slogan is "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen."

The Aspen Daily News began as a single-sheet newspaper on July 1, 1978. In a few years, the paper bought a press and switched to newsprint. In 1988, Aspen got its second daily. The Aspen Times, then a weekly, decided to publish a daily to compete for ad dollars that were moving from the weekly to the Aspen Daily News.

It's hard to imagine a town of 12,000 residents supporting two newspapers, but 20 years later, both are still operating. Aspen is, of course, known for its skiing, but the summer season is strong there too. The weakest times of the year for business are the spring and fall, yet both papers year around without interruption. The Aspen Times is six days a week and the Daily News prints seven days. Shown here is the Aspen Daily News press room. The photo is from the paper's website.

In the free daily industry, most of the attention is paid to commuter dailies like Metro, amNewYork, 24 Hours, RedEye, the Examiner chain, and so on. But a format that receives less attention is the community daily, which seems to have a higher number of profitable papers which have been in existence longer than the commuter dailies. Both Aspen papers are examples of quality commuter dailies. And Aspen's competitive zeal has spread to Vail, where that town just got its second free daily earlier this month.