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Sun-Times makes “urgent appeal” for subscriptions, bashes Tribune

Monday, Apr 23, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Scrappy move…

* From the piece

Until now, we’ve offered our online content for free. But we can no longer afford to operate our business this way.

The Alliance of Audited Media, an industry group that monitors the circulation of news publishers, estimates that the percentage of legitimate websites generating relevant, original content is very low, about 3 percent of the world’s 329 million websites, because the economics are brutal.

Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising, together collecting 73 percent of all digital ad revenue, according to a 2017 analysis by the research firm, Pivotal. All other companies compete for rest of the digital advertising pie. As print advertising has declined year-after-year, this has a created an impossible business model for labor-intensive, quality local journalism.

Earlier this month, the Denver Post made a dramatic plea to save that paper from an owner who has financially drained the company and trimmed the reporting staff to the bone. Our story — in many ways — is similar.

We’ve suffered through a series of managers who sold our assets, took money out of journalism and left us hollowed out.

As recently as last summer, some thought the only way forward was to fold the Sun-Times into the competition. That’s when a broad coalition of business and labor leaders stepped up to thwart a takeover by the Chicago Tribune — and made a promise to help us win.

Click here to subscribe.

* The paper is also currently running an ad bashing the Tribune. It starts at the 33:34 mark

If you let the video play after the ad, you’ll see Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco explain the ad. Fusco also notes that his wife works for the Tribune.

* Zorn is not amused

I enjoy robust competition, but this level of contempt for the other paper vastly exceeds anything I’ve seen in nearly four decades here. […]

Traditionally, competing papers, like most competing consumer products, tout their virtues in ads and imply or allude politely to their advantages over other brands. Harsh attack commercials are generally reserved for political campaigns, which is why this Sun-Times spot, which alternates praise for itself with whacks at us — the Sun-Times’ “priority is hardworking people”; the Tribune’s “priorities aren’t so clear,” and so on — feels distinctly political.

Not to mention false. Look no further than the massive investigation the Tribune launched into how failures in the Cook County property tax system harm the poor most of all for evidence of our priorities. Look at the extensive analysis of lead in Chicago’s tap water we published earlier this month to see what matters to us. Look at the deep-dive investigation our reporters conducted last fall into children dying from abuse or neglect while under state supervision to see whom we haven’t written off.

* But…

The ad says the Trib “sits in judgement.” That is, indeed, often the vibe.


  1. - @misterjayem - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:12 am:

    I can see why Zorn was PO’d about that Sun-Times ad.

    The ugly implications about the integrity of the Tribune’s newsroom reporters aren’t just wrong — they’re dishonest.

    Sadly, I think the ad’s cheapest shots only land so hard is because of years of reputational damage inflicted on the Tribune by its own Editorial Board.

    – MrJM

    We subscribe to both papers, btw.

  2. - 47th Ward - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:15 am:

    I thought Zorn’s defense was curious. He’s right about there being many excellent journalists in the newsroom producing great work at the Tribune. But I don’t think that was what the Sun-Times ad was attacking, although they did paint the Tribune with a pretty broad brush.

    We joke here often that a lot of times it seems as if the editorial board doesn’t read the actual reporting in its own paper. Given Zorn’s reaction, it’s almost as if he doesn’t read the editorial page.

    That would explain his disconnect on this.

  3. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    Best front page they have had in years

  4. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    I owned a paper back in the 80s. As the first pc’s were coming out I assumed they would eventually communicate through phone lines like mainframes did since the 70s. I expected we would send text to subscribers and publish a smaller weekly picture paper. I thought there would be ads on both. I expected to email the paying customers that way. That is not how it happened. No one took the internet seriously then …..

  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:22 am:

    The issues with Mr. Zorne are transparent.

    Simplist denominators, irrational thoughts to either get you to those, and worse, irrational thoughts to seem engaged in the process of what’s going on and speak to it.

    I get it, Zorne believes his newspaper has great reporters.

    They do. Some I admire, some I greatly admire.

    But, as - 47th Ward - points out, Zorne can’t grasp that the Editorial Page is part and parcel of the Raunerism thinkers.

    The Editorial Board sings the hymns, Rauner writes the lyrics, the Tribube reporters review both and find a paper’s leadership wanting.

    Zorne can’t understand the shots at his paper?

    They’re doing editorial “reporting” on people who already left, and quoting “because Madigan” and using death spiral as facts… not opinions.

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:28 am:

    Sooner or later, nearly all the “legit” newspapers will have to charge. Why buy what you can get free is the overriding issue. The question is what percentage of “former newspaper readers” will naturally flow to the free news sites (make up your own mind the level of integrity they will get - how much fake news?)

  7. - Annonin' - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:34 am:

    Paying the Sun TImes for content not so bad, but the website generally sux. Let’s us know when it is fixed. Tribbies have gotten a little better.

  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:44 am:

    You know, I feel like both papers have their problems in terms of quality reporting and editorials. Both also have very good reporters.

    Needless to say, I do not and will not subscribe to either newspaper because the product simply isn’t worth the money. I think that the era of hard copy newspapers is in steep decline, and other types of news sources (of which Rich’s Capitol Fax is one) are thriving. Also, unfortunately, many people have opted to get their information from Cable News or sources like Politico that are ultimately designed to reach an audience with a specific point of view.

  9. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:51 am:

    11:49: do you subscribe to CapFax? Or do you take the free content and hope Rich continues to give it away? Rich links to subscriber-based media every day; do you pay for it or rely on freebies?

    If you think it’s worthwhile, then dig deep and help it continue.

  10. - dr. reason a, goodwin - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:56 am:

    While journalists understand there’s a difference between the editorial page and the newsroom…most readers don’t. The Trib has stained its overall reputation with its wacky opinion pages.

  11. - City Zen - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    Under union management, there will be no free riders.

  12. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 12:12 pm:

    I am concerned about all media including internet because I don’t know of any large operation that could live off just subscribers and there isn’t much that can be done on the ad front except join the inevitable class action.

  13. - Bag It Up - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 12:26 pm:

    I think this whole thing just means the death of the Sun Times is imminent.
    Too bad but inevitable.

  14. - Ole General - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    Sun Times is an awfully designed, produced and distributed product. They have MAYBE 18 months of runway before the entire seed investment is eroded.

    What happens when the union leaders need to fork over another 15 million for 2 years worth of bleed, sweat and tears reporting?

  15. - Conn Smythe - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 1:16 pm:

    I like Zorn but those are some crocodile tears for a paper that willfully uses its reporter to breach the editorial/newsroom firewall on a regular basis. That paper doesn’t distinguish between church and state so to speak often enough to warrant an “it’s all separate” defense.

  16. - Pop-Up Abuse - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 1:33 pm:

    =Paying the Sun Times for content not so bad, but the website generally sux. Let’s us know when it is fixed.=

    Sun-Times website can be downright painful. Make it less hostile for us $3.99 /month digital subscribers and maybe you’ll have more. Raise the price and …. “You’ll get nothing and like it Spaulding”

  17. - perry noya - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 1:55 pm:

    I am torn by the Sun-Times appeal. I know some people there who do good work and can’t afford to lose their jobs. And yet, looking at the Sun-Times strictly as a consumer project, its past owners and managers have mutilated it so much that maybe it deserves to die.

  18. - perry noya - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 1:56 pm:

    I meant consumer product, not project.

  19. - DuPage Bard - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 2:09 pm:

    Meh it’s the Trib. What do people expect? They blast folks all the time. Then when someone blasts them they get their liberal reporter to cry about it. Shocked?

  20. - Ok - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 2:11 pm:

    I would pay for the Sun-Times email correspondence that led to them endorsing Rauner for governor in 2014.

  21. - A guy - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 3:47 pm:

    Saw this on the print copy this morning. It was interesting and offered a “make you look” moment. They need to charge for something that’s been free. Part of their new persona is to be the Other Voice, not just another voice.

    Interesting. On Zorn…you lost me at Eric Zorn said..

  22. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 3:57 pm:

    –I enjoy robust competition, but this level of contempt for the other paper vastly exceeds anything I’ve seen in nearly four decades here.–

    Well, your last boss, Viagra Triangle Man, wanted to buy up the Sun-Times to put it out of business. So much for “robust competition.”

    Other than that, what do you care what the other guys say?

  23. - Eric Zorn - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 3:58 pm:

    Contra Conn Smythe, I also wrote this in that column item:

    >>Why is the ad so churlish? I put the question in an email to Sun-Times Media CEO Edwin Eisendrath.

    In his response, he pointed to two positions taken by the Tribune Editorial Board with which he disagreed. It doesn’t matter which positions. What matters is that editorials are separate from columns, which are separate from news stories, and that our paper, like his, is committed to preserving those separations.>>>

    I understand how some people confuse editorial positions with news judgments, but Eisendrath certainly doesn’t and I find it hard to believe discerning readers of Cap Fax do, either.

    Can Smythe provide examples of how the Tribune “willfully uses its reporter to breach the editorial/newsroom firewall on a regular basis”?

    As for my taking note of this campaign, I’ll quote one of the commenters on today’s Madigan thread, “Qui tacet consentire videtur.”

  24. - commonsense 171 - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:02 pm:

    Just look at today’s edition. Maybe 5 pages of news. Their sports section, especially high school is good, but not enough. And they have a very narrow target market. I also agree with those who say their online is terrible. I subscribe to both papers. I get a digital version of the Trib every day. With the Sun Times I have to go hunt for it. It will soon be RIP. Too bad, used to be a good paper.

  25. - Veil of Ignorance - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:04 pm:

    Trib earned the rep because of their editorials…which at key moments completely ignores some of their journalists’ best stories. It’s this reputation of disconnection that leads many to view the Trib as the mouthpiece of the elite, powerful, and wealthy.

  26. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:05 pm:

    –Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising, together collecting 73 percent of all digital ad revenue, according to a 2017 analysis by the research firm, Pivotal.–

    I guess that explains the poor returns on my “Ask Jeeves” stock.

    Seriously, with two companies taking 73% of the market, are we not in anti-trust territory? Especially since we know they’ve been very, very naughty grabbing that share?

  27. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:06 pm:

    –I also agree with those who say their online is terrible.–

    How do they update it? The same stories stay there for days. That’s the opposite of “news.”

  28. - Wensicia - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:07 pm:

    As the print audience continues to shrink, I expect it may get uglier as each paper fights for survival. It’s sad because they’re both still cutting the best of their reporting staff.

  29. - Amalia - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    that sure is rich, literally, coming from an Edwin Eisendrath operation. negative campaigning works in politics. does it work in business? wouldn’t it be better to point out the good things about the Sun Times? their sports pages are better, including an amazing outdoors section. heck Telander just won an award. they have great investigative reporting. focus on the good. a black and white ad hitting what you have deemed your opposition, not so good.

  30. - James - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 4:48 pm:

    I subscribed, have been expecting this for years. I trust the new management, no billionaires, and am glad unions are part of it. I always used to pay a dime or a quarter for the paper, when advertising revenue was greater, before the internet so why should I complain today? NYTimes, WSJ, ChgoTrib all have paywalls. Good reporters deserve to be paid–it’s a profession.

  31. - Labor of Love - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 5:06 pm:

    Well, what did you expect when a union buys and runs a newspaper — profits? Silly thinking.

  32. - peace, love and guitars - Monday, Apr 23, 18 @ 7:18 pm:

    It’s not the reporters that are the problem, its the disconnect between the papers great investigative journalists and the majority of their Op Ed people, the names John Kass and Heather Wilhelm come quickly to mind. But a good 3/4 of their santimonius editorials are in direct conflict with what they report, that’s the rub

  33. - Fair and balanced - Tuesday, Apr 24, 18 @ 11:04 am:

    “for a paper that willfully uses its reporter to breach the editorial/newsroom firewall on a regular basis”

    Do you seriously not see a difference in both the news content and more importantly, the editorial slant in the S/T since the new ownership took over? Then you’re not paying attention. There is virtually nothing in that paper that is now untainted by ownership. Think I’m wrong, try talking to either newsroom folks or editorial board members over there about how ownership unabashedly walks the newsroom floor and pushes their directives on both.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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