We started Westword more than four decades ago as a very vigorous exercise in freedom of the press. Not only did we believe that our writers should be free to cover, and uncover, what was really going on in Denver, but we wanted to share their work freely with the city, by making sure that the publication itself was absolutely free.
Back then, there were few free newspapers, and those that existed were denigrated as “shoppers.” We worked hard to prove that a free publication could have value, ensuring that every issue included can’t-miss stories. It was a long fight, but one we were winning long before the rise of the Internet, which brought with it the notion that “information should be free.” As a free paper, we heartily endorsed that concept, and we never considered putting up paywalls. We never will.
Today, no one questions the value of free publications. But they do question how long those publications will be around, and with good reason. Local journalism is under siege across the United States, as tech giants suck up the lion's share of online revenue. And while Westword is free, the work of journalism is not.
Over the years, when I've talked to people about Westword — whether at the Denver Rotary or my favorite dive bar — one question has always come up: How can Westword still be free? Not only in print, but also online? My answer has never changed: We have loyal advertisers who recognize that a free publication (whether in print or online) with strong, local journalism and smart, loyal readers is a big value. Every day, we publish a robust mix of locally reported stories on westword.com, keeping you up to date on developments in news, food, music, the arts and, yes, marijuana. We’re committed to covering this city where we live, this city that we love, and we hear regularly from readers who appreciate our deep dives into big issues.
But just as our loyal readers are very vocal about what they like about Westword, they’re very vocal about what they don’t like. And lately, I'm hearing another question all too often: Why is it so hard to read Westword online? Now I have a new answer: It doesn’t have to be.
We’ve listened to your complaints about pop-ups interrupting your perusal of westword.com, and we have a solution. While we continue to rely on our advertisers to fund our work and are very grateful for their support, we also recognize that some people would like a faster, smoother reading experience, and might be willing to pay a small amount to enjoy that kind of access. (After all, our website has twenty times the number of stories that our print edition contains: That's a lot of reading.) So this month, we introduced a version of westword.com without commercial interruptions: If you become a member of the Westword community by pledging to make a monthly or annual cash contribution, you’ll be able to read an absolutely ad-free version of westword.com. If you’d rather not go ad-free, you can also help us keep community-focused journalism alive by making a one-time cash contribution or signing up for one or more of our email newsletters.
And right now, your support will do double duty. This giving season, the Colorado Media Project is hoping to inspire more individuals to support homegrown Colorado news through the 2019 #newsCOneeds program, which involves eighteen media outlets across Colorado, including Westword. Through December 31, your new monthly membership or one-time donation will be matched, up to a total of $5,000 per newsroom. The roster of participating organizations is impressive; you can read all about them at #newsCOneeds.
Learn more about the Westword membership program here, or feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] Remember: If you decide you'd rather not become a member, you'll still have unrestricted access to westword.com (those ads are good reading, too), as well as the print edition that we distribute weekly across the metro area.
Yes, Westword will continue to be free...like all the very best things in life. But sometimes, you just want the freedom to read things a little faster.