Mar 9, 2022 - News

Dismissing the mainstream, Colorado conservatives build their own platforms

Illustration of an elephant trunk holding a megaphone.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An alternative media landscape targeting conservatives is emerging in Colorado with diverse offerings that include content from former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and a gated social network.

Why it matters: The news and platforms are echo chambers — potentially lucrative ones — intended to push back against what the creators see as a liberal-bent media ecosystem to reach deplatformed conservatives.

  • The trend is familiar at the national level, but the increased focus on state-level politics and media adds a new dynamic with consequences for civic dialogue.

What's new: The newest outlet, Campfire Colorado, debuted this week with a website and newsletter that founder Matt Connelly says is designed to "talk to conservatives and be a gathering place for Colorado conservatives."

  • In its first days, the outlet featured an interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) who touted the GOP's chances in the 2022 election and published commentary from prominent local Republicans.
  • "Often we find reporters in Colorado and across the country don't cover the news that's important to conservatives," said Connelly, a longtime Republican media strategist.

State of play: Campfire Colorado joins a growing roster of conservative platforms, including Drudge-like Complete Colorado and conservative blog Peak Politics, as well as CaucusRoom, a national social network to engage conservatives in politics and campaigns.

CaucusRoom bills itself as a cross between NextDoor and change.org for conservative activists and makes money from advertisers and sponsors who want to reach volunteers and voters.

  • The site screens registered users to confirm their identity and conservative ideology using commercially available data, and has a board of members who handle content moderation.
  • It counts more than 110,000 verified accounts, said founder Matt Knoedler, a former GOP strategist and lobbyist, and interest spiked as conservatives were ousted from other platforms, such as Parler.

What they're saying: "It feels like there are a number of people who just left all that stuff altogether," Knoedler said in an interview. "When the deplatforming events happen we see growth."

The intrigue: The most prominent in Colorado is Real America’s Voice, a radio network that airs the "War Room" talk show hosted by Bannon, who now promotes conspiracy theories related to vaccines and Jan. 6 attacks.

  • Based just outside Denver, the show reaches as many as 8 million homes through Dish satellite television and is owned by Robert Sigg, a convicted felon, according to the Washington Post.

The other side: In blue-leaning Colorado, the conservative effort is playing catchup to Democrats and liberal organizations that began producing partisan content years ago.

  • The latest iterations are the Colorado Times Recorder, a liberal news site, and Colorado Newsline, which is funded by organizations that back Democratic causes.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.

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