Why the Rocky Mountain Independent Failed

October 5 2009, 10:05 AM
After the Rocky Mountain News shut down in February, about 30 journalists created an online-only publication called INDenverTimes. But as the push to sign up paid subscribers faltered, INDenverTimes changed its focus, melding original stories with news aggregated from other sites, offering the content for free. A handful of Rocky journalists instead launched the Rocky Mountain Independent, a local online news magazine that once more attempted to fund its operations with fees paid by subscribers. Just three months later, the experiment is over. Today, the site will stop posting original content, according to the Denver Business Journal. "We have put everything we made into producing content and supporting our independent partners, but we can no longer afford to produce enough content to justify the membership," a note on the site reads, adding that pro-rated refunds will be made. The sad news reignites the debate as to whether people will pay for news on the Internet or whether online publishers should look elsewhere for money. But Steve Foster, a former Rocky journo who started the Independent, says he's not quite ready to say news can't be financed via subscriptions. "I still believe that subscription memberships online are essential to the quality of news," he tells Westword. "But right now is a very tough time to ask for it. People just aren't used to paying for news."