High Country News: Project Summary

Covering ecological, economic and social health of the American West is a big job, and one that High Country News has been doing for many years with an every-other-week magazine and HCN.org. They reach approximately 3 million people with 26,000 paid subscribers, online readers, and syndication, including a number of conservation-minded leaders in politics, government, non-profits and academia.

High Country News has created HCN University to reach future readers and leaders in college and university classrooms with free, semester long subscriptions to HCN. In the pilot project last year, 1,800 students participated in 50 different classrooms, resulting in a noticeable spike in online readership. Professors teaching courses on environment, science, social science, law and journalism use HCN for in-depth discussions, research projects, and even final exams.

This grant will expand the project with three new components: A regular e-newsletter giving educators a heads-up on the coming issue’s content; a digital librarian service, pulling together specific archived stories at the teacher’s request; and 1-2 interactive webinars each semester to discuss a particularly hot topic with the writer and an expert. HCN also plans to sponsor a student essay contest with the winning essay published.

The goal is to increase donations from readers who like to support education programs. Their print readership is aging, and this is a way to bring in not only younger subscribers but additional advertising from an increased print run plus ad support from academic institutions.

What knowledge will be gained from this experiment?

High Country News wants to come out of this project with a set of best practices for approaching professors and for meeting the needs of professors and students. It hopes to learn what motivates current donors to support the project into the future, to find out what advertisers want to see in terms of audience growth to increase ad revenue, and to find “hooks” that will get young adults to subscribe to High Country News.