About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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May 26, 2009


Byrne Reese

Mark - Thank you so much for your excitement about ChicagoNow (I am a developer working on the project) and for recognizing just how radical and progressive this project is for the industry. I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say about the project once they have more time to explore it more closely.

As for me, my personal goal as someone working on the project is for The Tribune to engage Chicagoans in a way that they might not be accustomed to by a major news brand - by giving them a voice not only through the content they share with one another, but also in the shaping of the product and web site itself through the feedback they provide. As cliche as it may sound, at the end of the day, we view ChicagoNow as a resource for and by the people of Chicago. It is a promise I hope we live up to adequately and admirably.

Tim Lloyd

This looks interesting and a genuine effort.
It will be interesting to see how ChicagoNow is consumed by readers when a significant local news story breaks. That should be the litmus test for any such media.

john m

We've recently had something that sounds similar to this launch in Richmond - http://richmond.com. Media General kind of missed the mark, though - they don't really link out all that well, and local news is actually more difficult to find. The value of the added social networking and in-house blogs are not readily apparent when done poorly.


Actually, Tim, I'd argue that the real test is how CN will be used when *little* news is happening. NP.coms have never had trouble drawing audience for huge news; it's the day-to-day that's troublesome (average user coming back only two or three times per month, for example), and it's convincing people that the sites aren't just a) a regurgitation of the print edition, and b) showcasing all the sheer breadth of content.

A network of linked niche blogs is a potentially clever way of addressing those problems. I may not *care* about my local city council until one of its members violates the canard about live men or dead women ... but I'll read a blog about my favorite passion / community of interest every single day.

Kudos to @Bill80 and @CeeDeeBee (and Byrne & the rest of the team)for their work here.


Even though I find the phrases: "source-neutral, smartly curated, aggregation-heavy, social-savvy, distribution-prolific" somewhat nauseating, it is encouraging to see such progress by Tribune. One question though, is it going to make any money?

Mark Potts

Davey: As with everything these days, whether ChicagoNow can make money remains to be seen. But I hear that they are developing some advertising models that are as innovative as the ways they are aggregating content.

Dan Woog

Mark: How about "aggregating" some info on how many papers are doing innovative (or quasi-interesting) things all over the country?

You've reported on many in recent months. Can you at some point give us a list of the most important, intriguing, successful or otherwise interesting ones?

Mark Potts

Thanks, Dan. I did a roundup of the best efforts a while back, actually:
News-organization-based: http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2009/02/whos-doing-.html
Non-news-organization: http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2009/02/whos-doing-good-work-in-digital-news-part-2.html

Ron Kerger

"Wicked Local" newspaper sites on the East Coast use a similar format.

not impressed

so exactly what can i get there that i can't find anywhere else? and why would i go there instead of directly to the blogs?

seems like most of the blogs are trib properties anyway. yawn.

Mark Potts

WickedLocal is similar, and I've written about it before. But ChicagoNow is more ambitious, on a much larger scale, and will have a lot more social-media features in it. Both should not be exceptions, however—all news sites need to be doing this.

Mark Potts

Not Impressed: It's a very raw beta, and still under construction. The blogs actually come from a wide range of Chicago bloggers. Look at the video I linked to for a better idea of what's going on.

Tracy Samantha Schmidt

Hey Mark,

Thanks again for the initial review of ChicagoNow's beta site. The buzz from your review has been incredible and we're already learning a lot from the comments your review has raised on Twitter. Thank you, thank you!

To address two of the issues raised by your readers here:

1. Our platform is not just a platform for bloggers. We're also focused on the user experience--what can we do to create a site that is enjoyable, informative and useful? A site that they will return to?

When fully rolled out later this summer, ChicagoNow users will be able to integrate their social media feeds from many sites including Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Users will also be able to post their own writing, photos and videos directly to ChicagoNow.

Our developer, Byrne Reese, and our designer, Jason Santa Maria, developed several ways to display and cross-post the user content throughout ChicagoNow. Their goal was to make ChicagoNow as egalitarian as possible.

2. Monetizing the site. Mark, you're absolutely right that we're working on creative solutions to the million dollar question. You'll start seeing those in the weeks ahead.

To your readers, thanks again for the all comments. We appreciate any and all feedback. Drop us a line at staff@chicagonow.com. Or for the very latest, check out our staff blog: www.chicagonow.com/blogs/staff-blog.

All the best,
Tracy Samantha Schmidt
Editorial Director, ChicagoNow

Bob Dunn

Good points, Mark, squeaks of denial notwithstanding.

As for the lack of original content, I recently worked up a little experimental collection of links meant for the Houston market (near which I live), but which could be reproduced in pretty much any major market. (You can find it here: http://www.bobdunn.com/Article/247/newspaperless-news)

It consists of web sites at which one could obtain countless gallons of local, national and international news, weather, sports and business information without ever having to land on a major monopoly newspaper site inclined to access one's credit card for the visit.

I've also included instructions for turning this set of links into a Speed Dial screen for your Firefox or Opera browser.

Look, I was an inky wretch in newspaper newsrooms for 20 years, and I sympathize with those still struggling to make a go of it.

But it's not the Internet that killed the business - it's the corporate owners who lobbied successfully to gut media ownership laws and created those swell joint operating agreements that killed off virtually all American newspaper competition by the mid 1990s.

We all can see the car wreck that newspaper journalism is about to become. But I believe the good news is that the playing field still is wide open for journalists willing to partner with technologists and take a chance on creating something that serves the public better than anything heretofore in existance.

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