New Takes on Making Chicago News | Making Media Connections 2009 Coverage

barbara rozgonyi-daniel honigan Bill Adee, Editor, Digital Media at Chicago Tribune presented the Making Media Connections 2009 keynote on behalf of @coloneltribune, who represents the Chicago Tribune on social media sites like twitter and Facebook. I spoke immediately afterwards on the Social Media: Tools or Toys panel. Intending to cover Bill’s session on twitter [and maybe ask @coloneltribune a few questions], I switched to taking notes when I realized I couldn’t get a live Internet connection. These lightly edited notes reflect my impressions at the time and are not accurate transcripts.

[Photo: me with Daniel Honigman, a guy I met at a Colonel Tribune tweetup who said he knew the Colonel pretty well and always made excuses about why the Colonel couldn’t make it. Hmmmm . . .]

Disclaimer: The Chicago Tribune arrives in my driveway every morning. Most days I read some of it. 

When the digital media group first started they couldn’t even link out to YouTube videos.

A new site, www.chicagonow.com, – is in beta, came out with the @coloneltribune project.

Gets 100m page views/month and 10m uniques/month

They created a website called Chicago’s Best Blogs, then started Chicago Breaking News which tested another theory: can we work with our broadcast partners in reporting the news and aggregate with other news partners all in one place?

Got 5-6m views/month - #3 local news site behind Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Now has been a tremendous experience – they read at least a thousand blogs before choosing the bloggers. They are becoming the Ariana Huffington of Chicago with 50-60 blogs on Chicago Now. Three of the top 10 sites in Chicago are in the network now: Kevin O’Neil – huge to get him, Alexander Russo District 299, and Mike Doyle. Chicago Now has everything you can imagine: Sports Blogs, etc.

It all really started with Colonel Tribune and tapping into the blogging community.

Next project: news application groups: Brian Boyer, Joe Germuska and Ryan Mark – two coming from Northwestern’s develop/journalist program. As exciting as Chicago Now is, this project’s potential is limitless. Look for great things there. These guys will help expose some of the hijinks going on in Illinois.

Really focusing on what they can be good at: watchdog journalism, investigative journalism. The Tribune is still in the position where they can focus on some resources. The watchdog group is now up to 20, digital is up to over 45 – that’s the heartening thing.

As tough as the industry is, he thinks things are growing – people want news more than ever. People like to hang around him because “it’s all good” from where he stands.

Questions from the audience

Starting question – has the content on web has attracted a greater readership than before?

Focus on chicagotribne.com is local users – they’re up 25% more year after year. Something people lose site of is the need to reach local users. The Trib needed some different brands to come at different audiences. They have a 20% market penetration n Chicago – how do they get the other 80%?

At some level, Chicago Tribune is so strong as a print entity, Chicago Now is a better way to reach with features. How do they create a parenting site on Chicago Now and them promote it on chicagoribune.com? What do the users expect is the question? Creating different brands that can stretch and target audiences is what they need to grow more and faster.

How can we pitch?

Pitch him. Exciting to speak at this conference because many nonprofits are producing great content. Chicago Now is a great way to get your news out. A nonprofit would be a great idea for Chicago Now – could see getting more audience back to their website.

Potential role of tribune i participating in community projects?

Chicago Now has the potential – Trib provides the platform. Important step: help groups by helping them reach a broader audience.

Babbette – Young Entrepreneurs of the Universe for Veterans – how can people support veterans?

Figure out where your audience is – that audience may not be on twitter. Think in terms of the end user. You’re not going to help them if you can’t find them. Send him your site and let him take a look at it. Can figure out how just about anything can work on Chicago Now. The ideas are endless.

Pitching stories is getting harder and harder.

So much of what non-profits do is the feature story angle. Is it dwindling so much or is it our imagination? How can we get more attention online?

It’s not your imagination. The hard decisions that had to be made: what are we good at, what are we going to win at? How can we make a difference?

When you’re looking at feature stories, the competition is greater, the places you can get it are many and we’re less likely to win there. That does take away from the wonderfully eclectic and quirky cornucopia of stories that are out there. They try to have a watchdog piece on the cover every day. People need the media less than they used to because there are so many avenues in the ecosystem to get the information out and find your audience. His advice would be to join the ecosystem. That’s the way it’s going. You gotta start somewhere. The Colonel was honored yesterday by one of the employees of twitter who was in town to go to Harpo Studios. Oprah and her crew had some natural instincts on that. Oprah’s crew and the Colonel were her only two stops.

[If people aren’t reading why do want to be there?]

How do you balance opposing viewpoints.

Written blogger guidelines and community guidelines. It will be a free marketplace of ideas. The ones that will be credible will get thumbed up and the ones that aren’t will float away. If they’re self promotional and boring, they won’t have an audience and they’ll float away.

Jay Rosen has been outspoken about blogger/journalist relations – very influential in thinking about the site.

Will Chicago now be an aggregate or will there be critics?

One noticeable hole early on will be on arts and entertainment, but they have an improv blogger and a stand up comedian. In the theater area, looked around a lot for an actor or actress doing a blog.

We get coverage places, but not in Chicago . . .

It is harder to get in the paper, the space is tighter. They’re emphasizing different things.

What is the Trib’s policy on personal social media and how they mix it up? Are those lines being blurred?
Asking the wrong guy, but at one level why the Colonel came to be in the first place. One of the reasons they went with an avatar on Facebook. Needed to be some level of transparency. If you had Colonel Tribune, who else would be doing it? That’s the way to go: elderly, white haired man with experience. 

What do you think about the way news is transitioning?

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