The Washington Park Profile, Life on Capitol Hill and Neighborhood Life, three of Denver’s leading free newspapers, shared a trait even before they were brought under one banner earlier this summer.
“The rabid, loyal readership out there,” said Publisher Jill Farschman, who owns the news group, each a tabloid monthly, with her husband, Jay. “They like the hyper focus, they like that it’s neighborhood news.”
That take comes from a legit source, considering the Farschmans were loyal readers of the Washington Park Profile for nearly 20 years before buying the paper in 2015. In June, the couple tacked on Life on Capitol Hill and Neighborhood Life, a logical news and business decision, they said, “given the territorial alignment of the three publications.”
The acquisitions gives the group a combined monthly circulation of 50,500, serving the neighborhoods bracketed by Martin Luther King Boulevard, Quebec, Hampden and Santa Fe, and makes it a “significant presence” in the Denver metro, Jill said.
The maiden voyage, so to speak, of publishing the three papers for the first time had a few kinks, but was invaluable for the future, she said.
“All of us feel accomplished we were able to produce three papers we’re proud of in this cycle,” Jill said in early July. “… We put together a deal that had a lot of sensitivity to making things as seamless for advertisers and readers as possible. We pulled that off, and we’re very proud.”
Overseeing editorial operations for all three monthlies is Haines Eason, who was the Washington Park Profile editor before taking on the expanded role. He explained his content philosophy for the publications, which relies heavily on freelancers and community contributors.
“We want everybody to hear us when we say we intend to treat all three papers equally, that they’re all on equal footing,” Eason said.
“We’ve got to go deeper. We’re not going to sit here and say we’ll go deeper than, say, Westword, on a feature, but we have to bring an issue to our readers through the lens of their concerns, and do it in a way that makes the reader feel they’re an actor in the story.
“That’s the first and probably most important rule. Anybody can write about a ballot initiative. The (Denver) Post does a good job covering all the hot topics of the day, and they do it quickly. Our take has to be, ‘OK, how is this going to effect the neighborhood specifically?’”
He also discussed the challenge of publishing monthly, as opposed to the more standard daily or weekly. The grind, he said, doesn’t really change even if the publication days do.
“With monthlies, it can be that first week, especially after laying out three papers, when you totally want to zone out for a few days. That’s a natural challenge,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy what you just wrote and see how the public reacts to it, you’ve got to do the things with Twitter and Facebook to pump it … but you’ve got to keep moving, too.”
The ownership change represents a new chapter for the three monthlies, though each of the newspapers have been established for some time now.
Life on Capitol Hill, circulation 21,000, was founded in 1974, the senior institution among the group. Washington Park Profile, circulation 18,500, was founded in 1978.
The youngest is Neighborhood Life, circulation 11,000, launched in 1999.
Eason said the two older papers are “much more cemented,” while Neighborhood Life is “still truly looking for its identity.”
He said his main goal is pushing content that enhances the three papers’ relevancy, and finding the right balance between stories appealing to an older demographic while building its online presence for a younger audience.
“Incorporating that local, human aspect into every story is a must,” Eason said. “You’ve got to find the right people, they have to be local, and have to have some stake in the neighborhood.”
“Readers have moved away from slow news, that’s the truth. But at the same time, readers really love that we do news slow. We take our time with things, we make sure our stories have the human element, the local and neighborhood focus. … We’re working against the trend, and that puts us in an interesting place in the minds of our readers because we’re not just grinding things out.”
Jill said one of the news group’s priorities will be developing a web and social media presence for Life on Capitol Hill and Neighborhood Life, adding to its established traits of editorial substance and visual appeal.
“There is opportunity for us on the web,” she said.
Eason said his team of 15 to 20 freelancers and community contributors will also be vital in moving the three newspapers forward.
“We have a dependable core we can build around, and we don’t have to tell them to do anything,” he said. “We’ve basically let them off the leash. … As long as it’s relevant, we’ll run with it.”