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The paper has been under the ownership of the Tribune Company and Tribune Publishing since its founding in 1847. In 2007 the paper, along with other Tribune Company properties including the Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, were bought by real estate magnate Sam Zell in a deal valued at $8.2 billion. The Tribune Company spun off its newspaper properties, led by the Chicago Tribune, into a separate company called Tribune Publishing in 2014.
The paper has undergone significant restructuring in recent years, some as a result of the Tribune Company’s bankruptcy filing in 2008. The paper has seen a number of staff layoffs and buyouts, including newsroom staff. In 2008 the company was considering a sale of Tribune Tower, the iconic headquarters for the paper and other Tribune properties, but the plan was later scrapped. In 2009, the Tribune announced it would publish a tabloid edition for newsstand and box sales, while home delivery copies would retain the broadsheet format.
The paper began charging for online access in 2012, allowing five free “premium” stories per month before charging $14.99 per month, though the site remains free for print subscribers. Subscriptions were also reported to include some access to content from Forbes and The Economist through NewsCred.
The Tribune dropped its subscription to the Associated Press, along with six other Tribune Co. papers, in January 2013.
The Tribune Media Group, which publishes the Tribune, has branched out to specialized print and online products designed to reach new audiences, including RedEye, a free tabloid introduced in 2002 to target young readers. In 2007, the paper launched TribLocal, a network of community news sites that combines staff written news with reader contributed content. In addition, TribLocal is printed as a weekly newspaper in communities in the greater Chicago area, with 335,000 copies distributed to Tribune subscribers and 900,000 to non-subscribers, as of 2012.
TribLocal was outsourced to the Chicago-based content provider Journatic in 2012, and about half of its 40 staffers were laid off. It was reported to be profitable at that point. Three months later, it took back control of TribLocal and suspended its relationship with Journatic, in whom it was an investor, in the wake of a fake-byline scandal, though it maintained its relationship with the company and resumed limited use of its content later that year. (Journatic was renamed LocalLabs in 2014.) The paper cut its number of local editions by about half later that year.
In 2009, the Tribune launched ChicagoNow, a network of local arts, sports, news, and culture blogs that grew quickly in its first six months. Soon afterward, it launched 435 Digital, which does web, SEO, and social media consulting for businesses.
In 2009 the Tribune created its News Applications team, a group of developers tasked with building tools and information products for individual news stories and websites such as ChicagoTribune.com and TribLocal. The team was recognized with a Gannett Foundation Award for Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism for its first year of work. TribLocal, a network of local news sites launched in 2007, had grown to include 88 sites as of June 2011.
The Tribune has been innovative in its use of social media, particularly Twitter. As part of its social media strategy the newspaper created the character of Colonel Tribune to be the voice of the newspaper on Twitter. With the Colonel Tribune the paper has adopted a more personal voice and curatorial tone with its Twitter account, a contrast from its regular account that sends headlines. The paper also published its editors’ Twitter accounts instead of their names on a masthead in 2009.
In June 2011, the Tribune announced it would soon begin incorporating real-time ads into its website redesign.
Ann Marie Lipinski, who was hired as the new curator of the Nieman Foundation in 2011, was the Tribune’s top editor from 2001 to 2008.
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