Tribune digital signups exceed ‘wildest dreams’

Robservations on the media beat:

  • Chicago Tribune executives are ecstatic over initial reaction to their digital membership program, the first step toward instituting a partial paywall for online content. As of early Sunday, more than 22,000 readers had registered as digital members since the redesigned website launched at 6pm Thursday. “That is far beyond our wildest dreams, especially with holiday traffic levels,” Bill Adee, vice president of digital media and operations, told me. Adee also confirmed that Bloomberg Business News soon would be added as part of the free content on the site. At some point in the future, those who’ve registered will have the option to pay for premium content, including material from the Tribune, the Economist and Forbes. Details of the paywall plan will be determined by feedback from users, Adee said.

  • Is it a trend or a fluke? Chicago television ratings analysts are taking a closer than usual look at 10pm Nielsen numbers which showed NBC 5’s late newscast leading among viewers between 25 and 54 every night for more than a week. While longtime frontrunner ABC 7 still wins in overall households, NBC 5’s consistently strong showing in the advertiser-friendly demo could be the first sign of a game changer.

  • Two of the brightest stars of WGN Morning News, feature reporter Ana Belaval and entertainment critic Dean Richards, proved equally lively and engaging as a radio team over the weekend. Belaval joined Richards as guest co-host of his Sunday morning show on news/talk WGN-AM (720). It could lead to a solo role on the station for Belaval, who’d make a great addition to a lineup woefully short on female talent. Also over the weekend, WGN began broadcasting from its new state-of-the-art studios on the seventh floor of Tribune Tower. (Here’s a link to the inaugural newscast by Andrea Darlas.)

  • Here’s a shocker: Joanie Bayhack is out as senior vice president of communications and corporate partnerships at WTTW-Channel 11 and classical WFMT-FM (98.7). A 16-year veteran of parent company Window to the World Communications, Bayhack was a familiar face on the public television station’s pledge drives. The longtime Chicago publicist previously worked for Hyatt Hotels Corp., Aaron D. Cushman & Associates, CBS 2 and Playboy Enterprises.

  • Andrew Herrmann, the former Sun-Times managing editor who was named editor-in-chief of the company’s three west suburban dailies — the Naperville Sun, the Aurora Beacon-News and the Elgin Courier-News — may be reaching back to his old newsroom for a top lieutenant. Bob Oswald, whose Sun-Times roles included deputy features editor, is expected to head out west, too. “I've been talking to Bob and he has expressed interest in transferring,” Herrmann told me. “He would be a good fit: he's a seasoned veteran, knows the area and is highly skilled in editing and page design. Bob is also excited by the digital plans of the entire company and wants a leadership role in transforming Sun-Times Media West in that direction.”

  • Another man on the move is Bryan Erickson, art director of the Wall Street Journal. He’s expected to join Chicago magazine as design director, replacing Jennifer Moore, who shifted to art director of Chicago Home + Garden. Erickson previously worked as art director of Time Out Chicago and creative director of Foreign Policy magazine and The Out Traveler.

  • Think Zoraida Sambolin may be having second thoughts about her move to CNN? It’s been seven months since the former NBC 5 morning star joined Ashleigh Banfield to launch CNN’s Early Start. But with the network’s ratings at a 21-year low, Banfield has been moved off the morning show and replaced by newcomer John Berman, a former ABC News correspondent. It was clear from the start that Banfield was painfully, embarrassingly miscast in her role alongside Sambolin. Here’s wishing better luck with her new partner.

  • The 50th anniversary of Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite to orbit the earth and relay television pictures through space, will be commemorated by the Museum of Broadcast Communications July 18. Panelists will include Chicago attorney Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the Kennedy administration. Telstar 1 launched on July 10, 1962, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. One of its first public transmissions was a short segment of a Phillies-Cubs game from Wrigley Field on July 23, 1962.

  • Thanks to producer Sarah Koenig for quoting me in her brilliantly scathing expose of Journatic on Ira Glass’ This American Life last Friday. (She referenced my post here in which I called TribLocal “a worthless piece of garbage” since it outsourced its content to Journatic.) As bad as I thought the company was, Koenig’s report showed its practices to be more questionable and disturbing than ever imagined. Chicago blogger Anna Tarkov followed up with an insightful piece Sunday for



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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)