As Zell scoops up real estate and sues, Chicago Tribune site to include real-time ads

The Chicago Tribune, one of the papers owned by the struggling Tribune Company, launched a redesigned website last week to focus more on breaking news and cater more toward local readers. The new layout is cleaner, with fewer colors because a “cleaner layout with new fonts, fewer colors and a faster load time allows readers to focus on the news of the day,” according to the website explaining the redesign.

At the same time Tribune introduced its new site, it also announced it would be adding 40-44 pages to its print addition per week. Despite the increased page count, the price of the print edition will stay the same. Could this be a genuine attempt to offer more content to readers, both in print and online? Is Tribune Company’s revenue finally significant enough that they “can do puppies and Iraq,” as Chairman Sam Zell talked about when he visited the Orlando Sentinel in February 2008?

Probably not. According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the new Tribune website will soon feature real-time ads, which sponsors will be able to change whenever they want by pulling from twitter feeds, Facebook, Tumblr and blogs. Bill Adee, the vice president for digital operations for Tribune Media Group, told Nieman Lab that the ads would appear prominently on the website and that the ads were a unique opportunity for advertisers to integrate content with social media. The concept is not unexplored by other news sites, though right now Nieman’s best example of users are MinnPost and the Windy Citizen.

But perhaps Tribune is looking for revenue sources other than ads to generate some profit without hiking the price of the print edition. Last week, Zell joined other investors in buying a 90 percent stake in a 755,000 square-foot Chicago office building valued at $106 million. Zell’s insurance company is also suing a Los Angeles art gallery owner for over $5 million for selling three of Zell’s paintings and keeping the proceeds.

Looks like Zell needs some cash. And it looks like Tribune and Zell might not be so confident that the addition of real-time ads is the answer.

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