Sun-Times Parent Company Hopes Digital Network Is The Key To Profitability
By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 29, 2014 1:45PM
The Sun-Times newsroom has been besieged for decades from the fallout of bad decisions, the loss of solid reporters, and multiple owners. So we wonder how they’re taking Tuesday’s announcement that the paper is diving headfirst into the digital realm with a series of Patch-like aggregation websites across the country. Could it be a collective “WTF?” or are reporters and editors shrugging their shoulders and moving along with the business of doing their own jobs? Regardless, Wrapports LLC, the parent company that owns the Sun-Times and Chicago Reader, is bullish on the new Sun Times Network.
Wrapports chairman Michael Ferro conceived of the idea, will head the new network and “spearhead this aggressive digital push,” Wrapports CEO Timothy P. Knight said in a statement. “He deserves great credit for that leadership and for this innovation which begins an exciting new chapter for the Sun-Times brand.” The network is set to launch Friday but is currently in beta test mode. If you type http://chicago.suntimes.com into your browser, this is what you’ll see.
Cheezis! Apparently, Ferro conceived of this idea after a weekend spent taking Buzzfeed quizzes. ("Which rich man who buys a newspaper and treats it like a chew toy are you?")
The site will be heavy on aggregated content from the Tribune, Fox News Chicago, the Daily Herald and sports talker WSCR-AM, but will also leverage articles from the Sun-Times stable of columnists like Richard Roeper's movie reviews, sports columns from Ricks Telander and Morrissey, celebrity gossip columnist Bill Zwecker and content through Aggrego, Wrapports' hyperlocal offshoot. That formula will be lathered, rinsed and repeated in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and 65 other cities. Readers may visit the Sun Times Network websites online or via apps for iPhone and Android.
The new network's official launch coincides with the expected sale of the Sun-Times' suburban papers to Tribune Publishing Company, leaving Wrapports with only the Sun-Times and Reader as its print investments. Sun Times Network received a $14 million investment from Irish businessman Denis O'Brien. The network's CEO is Tim Landon, founder of the Classified Ventures properties (careerbuilder.com, cars.com) for the now-Tribune Media Company.
We wondered what a fraction of that investment in the Sun-Times would mean for the morale of the paper's newsroom. Maybe they could use it to hire reporters and editors. Or they could use it to make the paper's website look like it belongs in the 21st century.