A bill currently before the Finance committee in the Colorado House would provide tax credits directly to small businesses for advertising in local news.

Tim Regan-Porter

After the past couple of years of hits to the economy and a fraying of democracy, this bill would provide meaningful assistance to small businesses and local news outlets – ranging from print and online newspapers to radio and television news programs.

According to the 2022 Colorado Market Study from Coda Ventures scheduled for release next month, 81% of Colorado adults read their local print or digital newspapers each month and they are the most trusted sources of information. We depend on these outlets, along with radio and television newscasts, to keep us informed about our communities.

No one else consistently and reliably informs us about local schools, safety, business openings, events, school and business weather-related closings, city council and school board meetings, and so much more. No one else reliably holds local officials to account.

Without these trusted institutions, our news diets and Facebook feeds would consist of (mostly polarizing and depressing) national news, rants from that crazy uncle and late-breaking news on what a friend had for breakfast. Local news not only keeps us informed but also connects us to each other.

That same survey showed that advertising in local news is effective; it is great for businesses. Seven out of 10 readers have taken action in the past month after seeing an advertisement in a local print or digital newspaper.

These ads are some of the most powerful drivers of online searches and in-store purchases. One survey revealed that 85% of people agree that “seeing a brand or product in news brands gives me more confidence that it’s right for me.” Multiple third-party studies have shown that advertising in news brands is more effective that search and social-media advertising.

Nonetheless, when the pandemic hit, advertising was one of the first things small businesses had to cut. These tax credits will help them build back and expand their customer bases with one of the most effective tools available: advertising in local news.

But these tax credits do more than help small businesses. They bolster institutions that are core to the fabric of democracy.

Numerous studies have shown that local news decreases corruption, reduces the cost of local government, strengthens democracy and returns many more dollars to the public than is spent. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that local news remains vibrant and healthy.

This bill isn’t a hand-out from the government to media. It empowers small businesses to support the local news that they believe best meets their needs. In so doing, they help keep us all better informed and connected, and they strengthen our democracy.

To learn more about the bill and how you can support it, you can visit the Colorado Press Association’s website.

 Tim Regan-Porter, of Denver, is CEO of the Colorado Press Association.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The tax credit authorized in House Bill 22-1121 would be available to Colorado businesses that purchase advertising in “a print or digital publication that…primarily serves the needs of the state of Colorado or a regional or local community within Colorado.” This definition would include The Colorado Sun.

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