The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

We celebrate the book, and sing the e-book

IMG_2369 IMG_2362IMG_2371Looking at Julia Keller’s new e-short story: My Kindle Fire, Kindle DX, and Nexus 7. Admittedly, none of this hardware is of recent vintage…

This Saturday (June 7), I’ll be returning to the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest for the first time in a couple of years. It’s the 30th anniversary of an event that was called the Printers Row Book Fair when we acquired it from the Near South Planning Board a dozen years ago. My longtime colleague and Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor invited me back for a panel called “The Digital Revolution,” its general topic being “the many digital developments that are transforming the publishing industry.” (Event details at the end of this post.)

As it happens, the first thing that Liz and I worked on together was itself a “digital development”—a standalone Web site for the Tribune books section called “Chicago Books,” developed for us by Jimmy Guterman and which launched in August of 1997 even though only a fraction of the section’s readers were yet even online — and when, according to my files, a week of 30,000 Books page views was a big deal. (If you want to re-enter that version of the world, check out this piece by Donna Seaman from that month: “Learning to Crawl: Book Lovers Go On-Line.”)

Also as it happens, this is also the week in my Coursera MOOC “Understanding Media by Understanding Google” where one of the two topics being discussed is the impact of the Web in general, and Google in particular, on the book business (the other is the news business). One of the ideas I have put out for agreement or disagreement is taken from Steven Levy’s In the Plex, in which he quotes librarian John Wilkin of the University of Michigan: “Twenty years from now, interaction with a physical book will be rare. Most of that interaction will be in the study of books as artifacts.”

Does my worldwide student body agree? Continue reading

Stop the presses! Cooper Rollow was a legend!

For a good part of the 20th Century, it was not at all unusual to find one particular person front and center at important moments in the life of Chicago, in the business of media, and in American sports.

That person was not an athlete or a mogul, as such a person almost certainly would have to be today. He was the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune.

Cooper Rollow

Cooper Rollow catches some rays in Pioneer Court next to Tribune Tower.

“He was so influential,” said one of my former colleagues at a gathering I attended on Saturday night; “it was the biggest job in the country.” “I couldn’t believe the famous people who came in,” said another. “He was a celebrity,” nodded a third.

We were sitting on a Lake Forest patio, about 5 miles from Halas Hall, and we were deep into the first of two days of talking mostly about Cooper Rollow, who died March 29. He was sports editor of the Tribune from 1969 to 1977, which means he was the boss when I began my 11 years in that department in September 1974. But the celebrity part goes back a good ways before that.

Continue reading

RedEye turns 10. How did it happen? Why did it work?

"Dinner with 12 Strangers" logo

Friday, Nov. 2, was always going to be an interesting night. Back in May, I had agreed to take part in a Northwestern tradition called “Dinner with 12 Strangers,” in which a couple of faculty members, a dozen random students, and some alumni hosts share a meal “in an informal atmosphere that builds Northwestern community and camaraderie,” as my invitation put it.

RedEye's 10th anniversary logoRecently, just after I learned I’d be dining in beautiful nearby Kenilworth, my second invitation for the evening arrived, promising a somewhat different kind of community and camaraderie: “It’s been 10 years of crummy commutes, celeb meltdowns, 3 a.m. taco runs . . . and we’re just getting started. You’re invited to RedEye’s 10th Birthday Bash. Dress to impress; birthday suits not optional.”

How did RedEye happen?

Well, okay then, it was looking like a double-header, not to mention a fine way of wrapping up a week of thinking about how a few paragraphs I wrote in the May 2000 Chicago Tribune strategic plan had turned into something big enough to host a party for more than a thousand of its closest friends:

“Market data indicates that young, time-starved city-dwelling professionals can be be attracted to a newspaper–but that it might take a very different product than the one we produce today . . . Rather than continue to deliver a single newspaper throughout the marketplace and ask its purchasers to make choices from among the content we have bundled together, it may be time to put multiple newspapers in the market and let readers make a choice on what to buy.”

It went on to describe a “5-day-a-week newspaper for single-copy distribution, primarily in the city, Tribune vs. non-Tribune branding to be explored, edited for a younger audience.” Continue reading

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