◆ A key factor is missing in the hand-wringing analysis over the inevitable purchase of the Sun-Times by Tronc’s Chicago Tribune, and it’s this:
⇒The sales and marketing departments of the Tribune and Sun-Times will be combined.
⇒ And that foreshadows the death of the Sun-Times.
A Little History
The same death dance played out in the 1970s, when the Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News comprised Field Enterprises’ two-newspaper portfolio, with ad sales staffers selling space in both newspapers to advertisers such as Sears, Carson’s, Z Frank and First National Bank.
But those sales pitches lasted microseconds when advertisers balked at buying space in two newspapers when the Sun-Times had more than twice the circulation of the Daily News.
It mattered not a whit that the demographics of the evening Daily News were superior to the Sun-Times or that the quality of the content in the Daily News was more distinguished.
Advertisers weren’t interested in advertising in its pages, and ad sales staffers weren’t about to waste their sales call trying to convince advertisers otherwise.
By 1975, the Tribune had killed its afternoon paper, Chicago Today, and absorbed its 400,000 daily circulation into its million-plus base. That meant Tribune ad sales people could offer far more circulation and at a cheaper cost-per-thousand in a single newspaper and with a single sales pitch than the Sun-Times could by offering two newspapers and two sales pitches.
Why buy space in two newspapers when you could do better in one?
Sales efforts focused on the Sun-Times’ circulation, and the Daily News was ignored to death.
What’s Past Is Prologue
The same logic will apply in 2017.
When it comes time for a Tribune sales staffer to pitch an ad schedule to an advertiser, he’ll focus on the Tribune’s superior circulation.
Maybe on the way out the door, he’ll say, “Oh, wait. I have a Sun-Times media kit here. Want me to leave it?”
The answer already is all too clear.
Dan Miller is one of Chicago’s most respected and experienced economic journalists.
He served as Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the 1990s, then business editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, and, in recent years, as policy adviser to the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank. He also co-founded the Chicago Innovation Awards, which as recognized best-practices in products and services for over 15 years.