Defensive Strategy

Update: Improving the Chicago Tribune

22 Jun 2011  

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the Chicago Tribune’s new strategy. At the time, it appeared that the newspaper would be introducing a new premium edition of its daily paper. I thought this seemed like a rather complex strategy and one not likely to

It turns out that the Chicago Tribune is actually just enhancing its core product, adding more pages of editorial content to different sections of the paper and expanding the reporting staff. This makes much more sense and is a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, the Chicago Tribune needs to deliver an outstanding product to its readers. Cutting cost is not a long-term strategy; at some point the quality of the paper will decline to such a degree that there will be little reason for people to pay to read it, whether in print or online. So investing in quality is the right move.

The challenge, of course, is making the numbers work. Improving quality is expensive; the Tribune certainly seems to be spending a lot of money on the new strategy. Unfortunately, the changes won’t quickly translate into incremental revenues; the improvements might slow the circulation decline but the strategy isn’t likely to lead to a major jump in new readers. In the short run, the incremental costs will probably outweigh the benefits and the paper’s financial situation will get worse.

The Chicago Tribune needs to be patient; building a business by improving quality is a long process. Cutting costs is quicker and easier, but in the long run having a unique and special product will pay off.

3 Responses

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  2. Steve Levy says:

    Tim, hi. Steve Levy w/ Chicago Tribune. Wanted to thank you for your thoughts. We value your opinion, and that of our readers, and are very much trying to build a printed product that rewards news readers for their loyalty. Would love to hear more of your feedback as it becomes available. Thanks again.

  3. Chris R says:

    I think the Tribune needs to focus on their strength– local news. Everyone (all papers, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Blogs, etc) has AP headlines and tons of syndicated columns. Paying for that content and then pushing that on your readers brings you no competitive edge. Offering local news is the Tribune’s competitive edge. I’ve got a feeling that the Tribune has the largest local news team. Use that to your advantage and make your local stuff so good that the locals will be willing to pay for it.

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