Chicago Tribune expands local focus

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The Chicago Tribune Publishing Group formalized its agreement with Rochester, NY-based Kodak Microzone Publishing late last week in a push to expand its Triblocal.comáprogram.

The Kodak software is used to publish Triblocal - community-oriented, user-generated local newspapers distributed as inserts in the Thursday Chicago Tribune. The Tribune is currently publishing two Triblocal editions, covering different segments of the Tribune readership base - the far Western suburbs and the Southern suburbs.

"Local news is important to people," Ted Biedron, president of Chicagoland Publishing Company, a subsidiary of the Tribune Publishing Group, said. "Community bases are important, and metro newspapers find it difficult in a traditional way to provide that efficiently. Having user-generated content assists in that and makes it more efficient."

Biedron said Triblocal.com will expand to cover more communities throughout the year.

The Tribune began publishing Triblocal in April. It launched community Web portals to which readers could add news, event schedules and pictures. Content from the Web portals is reverse-published by editors and writers at the Chicago Tribune. The community weeklies are 16 to 32 pages each.

Reporters from the Chicago Tribune were sent into communities to teach people how to use the Triblocal.com site, as a grassroots campaign was being started to advertise it. Ads for the site were placed in the Tribune as well as on pizza boxes, local billboards and in local media outlets.

Advertisers use the Kodak software on Triblocal.com to create, place, manage and store their ads. The Tribune has been approaching mainly local businesses for Triblocal ad sales, and the response has been positive - surpassing initial ad sale expectations.

"The circulation they end up receiving is that which the Chicago Tribune has in the Thursday paper, so it's something they're familiar with intuitively," explained Biedron.

Editions of Triblocal have a 12,000 to 13,000 circulation mini-zone.

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