I was all compliments when I noticed that the Chicago Tribune was beefing up its pages on books and literary happenings. And then, look! They’re doing live programs and podcasts. This is kind of cool. It’s not as good as the old days, when they had a separate book section, but it’s pretty neat. Makes me glad I’m a subscriber. Little did I know that they were just softening me up.
Building on the brand awareness of the Printers Row Lit Fest (which is fun, I admit, a literary extravaganza of authors, publishers, bookstores and readers), the Trib has launched the Printers Row Journal, a “weekly collection of smart and accessible literary reviews, fiction, author interviews and commentary” paired with some live and online events. The print version comes out weekly and will be delivered with my Sunday Tribune.
Of course I subscribed. I’m a book nut, an early adopter, and have enough income that 99 bucks is no big deal. (It’s only $99 since we subscribe to the newspaper, it’s $149 for anybody who doesn’t.)
In one way, it’s an awesome opportunity – a weekly print publication all about books, with a bit of a Chicago slant. The Printers Row brand is a positive connection. I like the publishing perspective, the columnists and the reviews. AND it includes original short fiction – so few places to get that these days, and maybe I could even get a story published. (A gal can dream). So, good.
But looking at it another way, the publishers have carved out the people who care about books and are socking it to them, big-time. It’s the splinter-ization of publishing. Imagine if the Trib covered sports a little bit in the paper, but you had to pay more to get the Sunday sports section! Movies. Opinion pages. The triumvirate of Tribune advice columnists (don’t you take my Dear Amy). Or heaven forfend, the funnies! So maybe I, and my ilk, are making it easier to marginalize readers. We’re a buncha chumps.
Still, I ponied up. The paper pinky-swears that it is NOT cutting coverage in the regular Tribune. This is all add-on content. And since Elizabeth Taylor, Chris Jones, Rick Kogan, and my personal fave, Julia Keller are all contributing, I just hope they are all being given a big salary bump or are being paid by the piece for the new endeavor.
You can learn more about the offer here. The preview issue is available for your perusal online and it includes an article by my neighbor Elizabeth Berg, a piece featuring Sara Paretsky, an article about Nicole Hollander of Sylvia fame, reviews, and some original fiction. In trying to get used to the navigation system, I find myself grateful that it’s not online-only. There’s lots of add-ons to make participation more engaging, and the Tribune seems a little confused about whether this is publishing venture or a membership community – the sizzle is about the community, but when it comes time to sell the steak, it’s all about the publication.
One note of amusement: the preview edition of the Printers Row Journal includes a link to Olive, the software platform on which the publication is delivered. Unfortunately, the home page sales pitch for Olive says “turn your old news into new revenue,” which kind of undercuts the Trib‘s preferred brand position. Of course, I immediately began to think of the myriad of ways that my own employer could use Olive to good advantage… which is good for Olive, but I can’t see the benefit for the Tribune.