Colorado Media Project


Media and journalism




Gates Family Foundation




Visit Site

As a civically minded team, we are believers that local journalism is absolutely essential for our democracy to function. The Colorado Media Project is a civic initiative started by the Gates Family Foundation aimed at helping local journalism in Colorado by using new technologies to find a sustainable future. Cultivo Media and Boston Consulting Group were hired to conduct research and development for prototypes of potential solutions, and we could not have been more excited to join this team. 

The Colorado Media Project illustrates our ability to create simple solutions for complex problems. Our process focuses on creating user driven products with business impact at their core, and the results from this project speak for themselves. Our prototypes lead to better perception and higher rates of actions taken on ads, higher user retention, and more story virality than the industry standards, and we would love to apply our process to your businesses challenges. 

So how do you go from big idea to launchable product? Our design process does just that. For the Colorado Media Project, we knew we couldn't just make assumptions about what people wanted, we needed to design around behaviors, preferences and pain points.

People interact with products. You can't trick people into using a product, and if you want to actually create value, delight users, and have it be sustainable, you need to start with people. Human centered design means acquiring a deep understanding of how people are currently solving a problem and why

Human centered design process. Empathize -> Define -> Ideate -> Prototype -> Test

The process is simple, illustrated by the above graphic. Starting with understanding who your user is and what is important to them designers continue by identifying specific user needs and then working on potential solutions for them.

Initial Research

The research broke digital news into six dimensions:

  1. Geographic focus: How large of an area does a news source cover? Is it news pertaining to individual neighborhoods or is it a national source? 
  2. Topic focus: What do different networks cover? The Athletic covers sports exclusively but the Denver Post has sections for everything from cannabis to 
  3. Content role: Digital news content can be curated by an editor, a content creator or an algorithm. 
  4. Format: Are users consuming their news in long form articles, video, email or something else?
  5. Audience: What age range, culture or industry are we going to be looking at?  
  6. Business model: Do users like to subscribe for their news, or do ads not bother them? 
Research process

Empathy interviews

Primary research would look a little different than our initial research period. The process was a series of empathy interviews; talks with end users about themselves, where they get information and their news consumption habits. 

We sourced a group of 10 individuals spanning 5 cities around Colorado who roughly match the demographic breakdown of the state. The process went something like this;

Over 8 days we conducted the ten interviews and synthesized them into uniform summary docs on a shared google drive. The interviews asked questions about the interviewee’s hometown, how they talk about news with their friends, what news sources they use and the pain points they feel with news. 

We spent the next week going through what we learned from the interviews. With every interview, we made notes of interesting statements and answers and organized them by fact and assumption. Facts were put up on blue post-its, assumptions were put up on yellow post its and everything got stuck up on a window. 

As we were putting up all of the post-its, we began to notice themes recurring across several of the interviews. A lot of people had similar feedback on how they consume news, where they talk about the news and what they particularly like or dislike. We began to organize the post its by the insight they pertained to and ended up with fourteen distinct themes.

From here, we sat down and had a discussion on which insights are the most interesting and actionable. Four insights were chosen which were then developed into “how might we…” statements. These insights and how might we statements would guide our product design as we look to design around them. 

Our Insights and corresponding HMW statements are as follows:

Social capital is a primary motivator for news consumption

  • HMW give someone the news they need to feel confident and smart in their social circles?
  • HMW give someone the news that makes them feel like a trendsetter when they are talking about news with their peers?

People feel that news is entertainment that doesn’t feel like a waste of time

  • HMW make local news as addictive as Angry Birds?
  • HMW make local news as attractive during leisure time as national news?

Statewide news is not as directly impactful as local news, but also doesn’t deliver the heightened identification that national news does. 

  • HMW make people identify with statewide news the way that they do with national news?

 Getting outside your (political) bubble can be more trouble than it’s worth

  • HMW help people get outside of their bubble by making a source they disagree with trustworthy?
  • HMW help people get views outside of their bubble without creating conflict for them with their friends?

We built and tested one MVP for each insight and its HMW statement, looking to test core value propositions of possible features for a final product. 

The four prototypes built for CMP


A daily digest with stories just for you and where you are. It offers a feed of stories, information, and news based on your current location and places visited frequently by both you and your network. The relevance of the news is tied directly to the user’s location habits and will update live with push notifications as the user moves throughout their day visiting different locations.


A mobile experience allowing users to swipe through stories quickly deciding to either read, save, or pass. Each story comes up on the screen with an image, headline, and short description. Then, a user decides to either read it now, save for later, or pass on the piece. This stream of stories learns users’ news preferences based on their actions and tailors future content for them.

The Daily Snack

We decided people needed short, easily digestible news briefings to prepare them for their day and fit within their schedules. The Daily Snack looked to do exactly that: send a morning push notification with a short daily briefing including text, video, and podcasts to quickly get people the news they feel they need. 


A way readers can automatically have options for follow up reading along the spectrum of opinions on any article they consume. A simple bar with three articles, ranging from left, (relatively) neutral and right would make it easy for readers to learn more when they are already thinking about a topic.

Your digital transformation should be simple, impactful and help you understand your stakeholders more intimately. Applying human centered design to your industry problems can help you identify customer needs, outmaneuver competitors and innovate in new ways. We continue to be passionate about innovating in the media and journalism space, and we would love to help your organization next. The Colorado Media Project shows that we can solve critical industry problems and innovate into what’s next for your business.