Chicago Tribune’s Hyper-Hyper-Local Push

What’s next, URLs by the block?

Sure, “hyper-local,”  as a way of describing the trend in journalism toward coverage centered on ever-smaller geographic areas, has been overused in recent years. But I can’t help but think that the Chicago Tribune, some four years after launching TribLocal to up the media market’s ante in the suburbs, has designs to go hyper-hyper-local.

That’s a simple conclusion to reach on the heels of learning that the company has secured 334 domain names that consist of as many community, neighborhood or otherwise-geographically specific sites–all with “tribune” at the tail end of the name.

From “addisontribune.com” to “ziontribune.com,” you can learn more about it here at Fusible.com.

When I began covering Hinsdale in 1999, at the start of a six-year run as a freelance reporter for the Tribune–I quickly recognized that geography was sometimes a decisive factor in whether I would be able to secure an assignment.

So over time, to broaden my ability to feed extra mouths that came along in the Baron brood, I expanded my reporting domain to cover three communities. (Well, two communities–Oak Brook and Elmhurst–and one larger-than-life journalist’s shooting-fish-in-a-barrel dream for unearthing corruption and incompetence–that would be Cicero, even post-Betty Loren-Maltese.)

With its domain-name shopping spree, the Tribune is likely taking the same course, only on a macro level by leveraging its resources to provide for its hoped-for larger kingdom. Among other rivals, the company is facing a strong push by AOL-backed Patch.com throughout the Chicago area (a.k.a. “Chicagoland,” a term first coined by the Tribune in 1926).

Regardless of how this plays out, the simple act of securing those URLs reinforces one of my principal pieces of counsel to clients: don’t rely solely on swinging for the fences (major media market coverage).

Hitting home runs is great–and it only makes sense to go for them when you have the chance. But the bulk of your success will flow from getting very good at identifying multiple, smaller markets where you can tell your story over and over again in a way that is relevant to each sub-market.

 

Humor + Humanity in Communication Paves The Way to a Great First Impression

I really am trying to write shorter blog posts–I preach it all the time and you are more likely to read this entire ditty if I stopped right after this sentence.

But I promise this one is worth the extra effort you’ll require to dig in here. In fact, extra effort–just a modest amount, mind you–is at the heart of this missive.

Think about your day-to-day journey. You know, the one that can often be filled with so much drudgery and sameness? Honestly, don’t you crave a little humanity–and more than a little humor–to come across your path as often as possible?

What if you were to offer those precious commodities, especially at unexpected moments and in unexpected places, to those whose path you cross?

Folks would rave about you. You’d generate the right kind of buzz. And, according to a recent survey, you would be 87 percent more likely to become a millionaire.

OK, so I made up that last one. Just trying to practice what I’m preaching and inject some humor into your life.

These ruminations flow after a decidedly pleasant encounter I had today with the Terms of Service for a new outfit called Patch.com. Yes, you read that right: terms of service–that dry legalese that hardly anyone ever even looks at, let alone reads (at least, that’s how I operate).


For months, I’ve been hearing rumblings of Patch and noticing veteran journalists, including at least one former editor of mine, have jumped aboard with the company.

But it was only today that I dug a little deeper. (Here’s the link for the Oak Park, Illinois patch, if this is all news to you.)

Because I plan to post stories and other content on behalf of various Inside Edge PR clients in the future, I decided that I really ought to click on the link for Patch’s terms of service.

I was treated to a living, breathing narrative that communicated all the required points (read: legalese), but it did so in a way that was a downright delight.

Some excerpts:

“We ask that you read these Terms of Use carefully before registering or using the Service. If you do not accept these Terms of Use, we promise not to get mad. But in that case, you may not use the Service.”

“You are responsible for the security of your password and will be solely liable for any use or unauthorized use under such password. Therefore, if you share a computer with others, don’t allow your Internet browser to automatically save your password. Also, don’t write your password on a Post-It note and leave it on your desk for all to see.”

Later, after spelling out some of the no-nos that will get your butt kicked off of Patch, there was this simple summation:

Instead of trying to memorize all that, you might boil it down to three main policies: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Easy, right?”

By the end of it all (and by now you shouldn’t be shocked to learn that I read to the end), my regard for the company had skyrocketed. Bear in mind, I know little more than what I’ve already described, and this halo effect has already taken root.

How would you like your customers, clients, audience base, fans, whomever, to begin with that kind of overwhelmingly positive impression?

That’s the power of effective–human, humorous, real–communication.

So what are you doing–in your e-mails, in your voicemails, in any interaction that you’re having with others–to do that little something to bring a smile to someone’s face?

Do people dread or look forward to hearing, or reading, from you again? The answer lies at least partly in whether you take the extra effort that, in Patch.com’s case, inspired me to give them this rousing shout-out.

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My Two Cents on Humor’s Pivotal PR Role
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