Mar 8, 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 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.

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