The decision by the Chicago Tribune
to take what it says is an unprecedented step of selling two different formats of its paper -- a tab for street sales, a broadsheet for home delivery -- is but another example of the tumultuous changes taking place in the newspaper industry.
There has always been a strategy of "throwing newsprint at the problem", whether it be to spike the guns of an upstart competitor or to occupy competitive space that would otherwise be occupied by a competitor. (For instance, the Sun
papers producing the free 24 hours
street paper or the Toronto Star
publishing eye weekly
.) But the idea of producing the same paper in two different formats is a new wrinkle and would seem to be an inefficient and redundant one.
“Many news consumers have asked for a more convenient version of the paper that contains all of the same great news and information. Starting Monday, we’ll give them what they’ve asked for,” Tony Hunter, the Chicago Tribune Media Group’s president, publisher and chief executive, said in the announcement. “Companies succeed when they leverage strong brands and respond to customer feedback.”
Newsstand and street box sales have only accounted for 9%, or 46,495 copies, of the Tribune's weekday average circulation, according to a story
in one of the Tribune's own blogs. By comparison, a free commuter paper called RedEye
, which the Tribune
launched in 2002, has 200,000 average weekday circulation. So the Tribune
is competing with itself with two tabloids, one free, one paid.
As one reader commented: "Why will someone plunk down 75 cents for a tabloid Tribune
when the tabloid RedEye
, with Tribune-content, is available for free?" Why indeed.