TribLocal Branding Is Replaced by Pioneer Press in Many ChiTrib Communities

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From its launch in 2007, TribLocal was the Chicago Tribune’s highly branded network of suburban news print inserts and e-sites covering sprawling Chicagoland. Now TribLocal has lost most of its branding and been replaced by the Tribune’s recently acquired Pioneer Press in many communities. 

We recently caught up with Bob Fleck, the Tribune’s recently appointed general manager and publisher of the reformulated suburban group of print and digital news, to find out what the changes will mean.

How many unique visitors do you have or expect to have, based on numbers from the old Pioneer website and TribLocal communities not covered by Pioneer?
We don’t share specific digital performance metrics, but suffice to say that traffic to suburban content has increased significantly since we incorporated the new products into

How many Pioneer editorial staffers are there now putting out news in Pioneer communities? How many TribLocal editorial staffers have been retained to cover non-Pioneer communities?
We do not disclose specific staffing figures. However, all TribLocal editorial staffers continue to produce content for our suburban communities.

I count 69 communities that you now cover, based on your dropdown box. That correct?
Chicago Tribune’s suburban media portfolio includes six daily publications, 16 TribLocal clusters, and 32 weeklies. Within those, we cover a wide geography across suburban Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, including smaller communities not necessarily listed in the masthead or specifically called out online. A better way to describe it would be to say that we have 50 stand-alone suburban sites that each celebrate their respective communities and those around them.

Are there any print Pioneer inserts in the daily Tribune, as there used to be TribLocal inserts, or are the Pioneer print papers obtained either through home delivery or stacks or containers in various community/neighborhood locations?
Pioneer publications remain as a stand-alone product, delivered in the mail to paid subscribers. TribLocal continues to be a home-delivered topper to the Chicago Tribune on Thursdays.

Are the print Pioneer weeklies free or do they have a cover price, like the six dailies?
The Pioneer weekly publications are paid products.

You talk about improved community coverage. Is it accurate to say that there will be more in-depth and broader community coverage than there was in TribLocal?
The weekly Pioneer products are tailored to cover specific towns, while TribLocal covers 3-5 towns in a cluster. We are committed to expanding community coverage at the local level and are working each day in order to do so.

What was behind the decision to use the Pioneer name, rather than TribLocal, for the new branding of your community network of news sites?
The individual masthead/publication titles from the 32 Pioneer Press weeklies hold great brand value and name recognition in their respective communities. We are proud to celebrate that.

Will the Tribune be expanding its revamped network to other communities not now covered?
We are currently focused on improving the content and reader experience for our new suburban publications. That is priority #1.

It appears there will be little if any TribLocal branding compared to what existed before Tribune acquired Pioneer Press? How, exactly, will Chicago Tribune suburban news be branded when you’ve completed your changes? Won’t you want an easy-to-recognize name that is in the minds of readers and businesses alike?
We are continuing to assess the best way to brand our suburban publications for both our readers and advertisers.

Are you using LocalLabs (formerly Journatic)?
LocalLabs continues to be a partner of Metromix. Our suburban publications utilize the Metromix platform as our events hub for community-submitted events.

Tom GrubisichTom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of the in-development hyperlocal news network Local America that rates communities on their performance across a broad spectrum of livability — Local America Charleston launched last year.