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Cote’s Colorado: Coming soon (maybe) to a website near you: ”Rocky II”

Welcome to the printed page, the place where black meets white, where inks meets paper, the format ColoradoBiz uses for bragging rights to a circulation that tops 20,000. We’re reaching thousands more readers every month online at cobizmag.com, where we can track how each story, commentary, blog, video or podcast fares in real time.

We have a running in-house contest on what online item will attract 5,000 readers in one morning. (Can words show cleavage?) But we’re probably setting our sights too low. Multiply that times 10, and we’re starting to look at some real numbers.

That’s the sweet spot 30 ex-staffers from the Rocky Mountain News need to reach by April 23 if they hope to get their investors to kick in money to fund the new enterprise, In Denver Times (InDenverTimes.com). But those 50,000 people will need to each pledge $4.99 to $6.99 a month to seal the deal.

What these veteran journalists and a few entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on them – Denver investors Brad Gray, Kevin Preblud and Benjamin Ray — are attempting is a long-shot bid, a single shot into the dense thicket of the online media forest, one where models based on advertising, such as ColoradoBiz, continue to reign and few people are willing to pay for content. The Denver Post, which played the announcement on page 8B, can’t be too worried about the potential competition, especially considering it already plucked many of the Rocky’s name-brand writers.

It’s hard to brush aside the doom and gloom of the economy to focus on what this might mean to us decades from now, when the newly minted Kindle2 will be as quaint as Pong is to baby boomers and the systems for delivering news will have evolved into workable business models that can support the level of local reporting those Rocky staffers are trying to sell to readers and advertisers.

Pat Wiesner, the retired namesake of WiesnerMedia, writes about the Kindle vs. the newspaper this month (on page 11 — and see Eric Peterson’s take on the post-newspaper media world on page 44). Here’s a 73-year-old who has owned both versions of the Kindle and once tapped out one of his columns on his iPhone and e-mailed it to us while traveling in Honduras. Pat brought in his Kindle2 to the office so we could photograph the device displaying a Wall Street Journal story while it sat atop a copy of the printed version of the newspaper.

It happened to be the same day In Denver Times announced its campaign, and the second time in a week I heard the Kindle come up in reference to the Rocky. The first was when I heard futurist Jack Uldrich address a few hundred merger and acquisition professionals at the annual conference of the Association for Corporate Growth.

During a talk in which Uldrich rattled off innovations that will transform society – and offer ample opportunities for entrepreneurs — Uldrich noted the Rocky announced its final press run the same week Amazon launched the Kindle2. His point was that the media is evolving but not going away.

That hard copy of the Wall Street Journal resting under the Kindle2 as illustrated in Pat Wiesner’s column shows a cover price of $2. You can get the Journal delivered daily to your Kindle via wireless technology for a mere $9.99 a month, the same price as the introductory offer for its print edition. The Journal used to command annual subscription rates of $300; now it’s more interested in preserving its advertising base.

In Denver Times is asking you to take a chance on the product sight unseen. But here’s a rare moment when a media startup is more than a collection of user-generated and aggregated material — one that plans to pay professionals to produce content. What a concept. Who do these people think they are?

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Mike Cote

Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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