Tribune hopes The Mash a monster

In an effort to court teen readership, the Chicago Tribune is launching a high-school-focused weekly this September.

Tentatively titled The Mash, the paper will be produced in conjunction with Chicago public schools, enlisting students to produce content with guidance from Tribune editors. The Tribune will sell ad space in The Mash to support its free distribution to 100,000 students.

“High school students nationwide control billions of dollars of market power, either that they spend directly or that they influence their parents to spend,” said Owen Youngman, SVP of strategy and development for the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t currently have an effective means of targeting just them without a lot of waste for advertisers, so we believe — and sponsors have agreed — there’s clearly an opportunity to find ways to put messages in front of them.”

The Mash will be joined by a Web site, which will allow students to post articles and photos between issues. The site also has some interactive and networking features. Tribune will gauge the success of The Mash partly by the number of user uploads on the site.

Youngman said the idea for The Mash came from a similar product successfully produced by the South Florida Sun Sentinel — another Tribune Co. paper. If The Mash is also successful, the company will consider rolling out high school papers in other areas.

“We’re trying to introduce high schoolers to the idea that there are other ways to get information, news and advertising, and to identify those occasions in the rest of their lives when they want to start including print in the suite of media products they use,” Youngman continued.

The online and user-generated concepts have also worked well with TribLocal, Tribune’s group of free neighborhood publications in the Chicago suburbs.

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