The Tribune Company acquired Chicago in 2002 from Primedia. At the time, Web resources were few and far between.
By 2006, the magazine knew it had to ramp up online, and hired Bill Oakes as manager. “The editorial staff was interested in going beyond the ‘brochure-ware’ version of a Web site,” says Oakes. “And the sales staff had a hard time selling anything without much traffic to back it up.”
The site hired a dedicated online editor in Esther Kang and began publishing online-only content, with blogs leading the charge. The site’s first blog, Last Girl Standing, writes about Chicago nightlife. “That showed that we could offer something beyond print,” says Oakes. By March 2007, the site had its second blog, a real estate-focused blog called “Deal Estate” and soon added an arts and entertainment blog called Coda.
By Spring 2007, Chicagomag.com had hired Godengo to provide its content management system. Within eight weeks, the company rebuilt and relaunched chicagomag.com. “At best, we received approximately 30 percent of our traffic from the Google’s and Yahoo’s of the world” says Oakes. “Now we receive more than 60 percent each.”
Building community was key. Weekly e-newsletters were repurposed as blogs. Chicago took a controversial print feature about a high profile murder in Chicago and made a video interview with the writer, which sparked hundreds of comments at the Web site.
Traffic has grown from 40,000 unique visitors and 200,000 page views per month to 100,000 unique visitors and 500,000 page views per month. Chicagomag.com stopped offering online ads as value-added and now sells everything from sponsorships to CPM deals. Among the new programs sold was a sponsorship of a special 10-day blog during the Paris Fashion Show.
VITAL STATS: Traffic grew from 40,000 unique visitors and 200,000 page views per month to 100,000 unique visitors and 500,000 page views per month.