Digital First Media terminates centralized digital news experiment

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(Photo: MGN Online)

NEW YORK — Digital First Media, parent company of The Denver Post and a number of other Colorado newspapers, announced Wednesday it plans to end its centralized digital news experiment.

Known as Project Thunderdome, the 2-year-old experiment was DFM’s plan to create a central online platform that provided content and ideas focusing on national and international, health, technology, sports, lifestyles and entertainment news for the company’s vast multitude of newspapers and websites.

John Paton, CEO of DFM, made the decision to disband the project public in a blog post.

In light of a rapidly evolving digital landscape, Paton said the project proved to be a powerful learning tool in the realm of digital media and, after garnering a wealth of new knowledge, DFM has decided to move in a new direction.

“Our skills in data journalism, video production, website and mobile developments are all the better for Project Thunderdome,” said Paton. “But what once were fairly isolated skills located in one place are now skills shared by many in our company…and that means it is time to change.”

He added that the company will continue to invest in digital media, but put a heavier emphasis on local content.

With the disbanding of the digital project, Jim Brady, DFM editor-in-chief, and Robyn Tomlin, Project Thunderdome editor, will part from the company, stated Paton’s blog post.

Nieman Journalism Lab, a site focused on bringing journalism into the Internet age, reported that shutting down the project is part of a multi-million-dollar cost-cutting initiative.

The site also speculated that DFM owner, Alden Global Capital, will start to make moves to sell some of its newspaper properties.

DFM is not alone in this notion of centralized online content for large media companies, said Nieman Journalism Lab — both Tribune and Gannett utilize a digital national news desk. However, DFM had said it hoped to push the boundaries on traditional wire sources with the experiment.

Despite initial promise, Thunderdome encountered some hardships and could not rise above them.