Boulder could now use a downtown news coffee shop

By Steve Outing

Here in Boulder, Colorado, our dominant newspaper is moving out of its long-time home in the heart of downtown. Next weekend, the Daily Camera is vacating its home at 11th and Pearl Streets — where it has been downtown’s longest-operating business — to an office in a business park in east Boulder.

The Daily Camera building on Pearl Street

It’s a sound business decision. The Camera building sits at the west end of the Pearl Street Mall, a four-block pedestrian-only shopping area that is the heart and soul of the city and a major tourist draw. The building afforded reporters close proximity to municipal government and the county courthouse, plus many of Boulder’s most prominent companies, including many in the city’s thriving tech start-up scene.

In other words, the land that the Camera’s building sits on is very valuable real estate, and with fewer employees and the paper’s printing presses long gone from the premises, it made sense to unload the property and move to smaller, less-expensive digs. The Camera and its owners, MediaNews Group of Denver, sold the building to Los Angeles-based Karlin Real Estate for $9 million last August. Now it’s time to move out.

But wait!…

Particularly for a city like Boulder, where the downtown area is more special than most (stated as an adoring resident of this college town), it is not a good thing that the primary news source no longer has a physical presence in the heart of town. This is a loss to the community.

I’m not going to gripe about the move, or suggest that the Camera’s executives reconsider their decision to move to an impersonal office park. Rather, here’s my suggestion to editor Kevin Kaufman and publisher Al Manzi — to turn a negative into a positive:

  • Lease shop space on the Pearl Street Mall and open a coffee shop (or move in with an existing popular coffee shop as a partner).
  • This might be an independent shop run by people in that business, in partnership with the Daily Camera. (Boulder has several tony coffee shops that are favorites of the tech crowd: Ozo’s, The Cup, Atlas Purveyors…)
  • Or it could be a deal with a chain like Starbucks or Pete’s, where cohabitation of the space is negotiated.
  • Brand the Pearl Street coffee shop with the Daily Camera name: e.g., Daily Camera’s The Cup, or Ozo’s at the Daily Camera.
  • Expand the notion of a typical downtown coffee shop to include:
    • Plenty of comfortable furniture for casual work and reading while partaking on pricy coffee drinks and pastries.
    • Print editions of the Camera available (of course), as well as digital tablets that customers can check out (credit card imprint for deposit, please!) to read the Camera and other websites using free wi-fi.
    • Coffee shop loyalty programs or memberships, which give members special privileges (such as discounts on drinks and food, or hassle-free check-out of digital tablets).
    • Meeting/lecture space for periodic newsmaker lectures and public discussion events, with free events subsidized by sales of those expensive drinks. Or low admission prices but free admission to coffee shop members.
    • An editor (or two) stationed at the coffee shop, available to interact with the public but also physically positioned to respond quickly to report downtown news events. (And with a desk to perform normal newsroom duties.)
    • A couple public computers designed to solicit story ideas, news tips, and feedback for the office-park newsroom dwellers.

If I were in Manzi or Kaufman’s shoes, I’d worry that the Camera brand would suffer by the loss of a physical location in the heart of the action downtown. A trendy coffee shop co-branded with the Camera could alleviate that problem. And if the partners running the drink and food side of the business know what they’re doing, the co-branded business won’t cost the newspaper company anything — and might even bring in some new profits.

Old (left) and new (right) Daily Camera offices

View Daily Camera old and new locations in a larger map

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!