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Tribune Interactive
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Tribune Interactive
Knight Ridder Digital

"Scale does matter," says David Hiller, president of Tribune Interactive, "and it seems to matter even more online."

That's one reason Tribune plunked down $8 billion for Times Mirror Co. in March 2000.
"One of the reasons for buying Times Mirror was to build national scale in print and online," Hiller says. "Previously, we had three or four great Web sites, but to do the things we wanted to accomplish, it made sense to build scale in the medium."

"For us, content sharing is old hat."

By adding the Web sites of the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant, Tribune Interactive immediately became one of the elite players in the online news industry. Throw 23 TV stations into the mix, and you've got a convergence behemoth.
So has Tribune Interactive become the Dark Master, sending word to its minions that they must conform to the throne of bland corporate uniformity? Hardly. Each site in the Tribune retains a distinctive flavor and personality.

"That's deeply engrained in our DNA," Hiller says. "I'm not sure we'd know how to do a homogenized product. What we do is local media, and the essence of that is a unique voice that reflects the distinctive voice and history and experience of the community."

Tribune's interactive unit began work on a unified content management system in mid-2000 to replace the 11 different publishing systems at 11 of its properties. In November it rolled out Oxygen, a Web-based system powered by an industrial-strength database that gives online staffs access to stories, graphics, photos and audio and video files.

Hiller says that sharing news across the network has proved valuable for both enterprise packages and breaking national news.

"We were able to put together very good coverage of the Olympics, accessible all along the network, without having 12 or 15 people duplicating the same work," he says. The Olympics package contained coverage from reporters and photographers from the Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday and other publications.

In 1997 Tribune created Shared News Service, with a small team of producers in Chicago charged with the mission of sharing news throughout the company's Web sites. "For us, content sharing is old hat," says Scott Anderson, director of shared programming for Tribune Interactive. "Oxygen has just made it a lot easier."
The last of the Tribune sites not currently on Oxygen -- its broadcast news sites and -- are due to switch over by the end of this month.
Anderson says the unified publishing system is invaluable both for special packages, such as the Oscars, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and last year's Florida ballot project, as well as on a day-to-day basis. Anderson's team coordinates daily nation-world and business budgets throughout the network each afternoon, budgets that contain dozens of stories from Tribune publications.

Different sites will take the lead in coordinating content for the network, so the LA Times  traditionally heads up coverage of the Oscars while the Orlando Sentinel handles space shuttle launches (Real Video).

Other sites take the lead when news breaks in their back yards. Newsday filed several stories with exclusive angles after former NBA star Jayson Williams was charged with manslaughter Feb. 25. On the same day, the Baltimore Sun covered the sinking of a tugboat that collided with a freighter in foggy conditions on the Elk River. It also happened to be the first day the Sun was working with WMAR, its new broadcast partner, and video from the scene was made available to all the Tribune news sites.

Video is becoming an increasingly important part of the content mix, and a number of Tribune sites produce and share Web video. Just last week Tribune Interactive took another step in that direction by partnering with video news site The FeedRoom to launch Chicago Tribune FeedRoom, which relies heavily on video from Tribune's WGN-TV News in Chicago.

The Tribune Co. has long been at the forefront of the news media's convergence movement, with multimedia newsrooms in Chicago, Orlando and video capabilities now being added to the newsroom of the Los Angeles Times.

Says Hiller: "We're trying more and more to organize ourselves internally to produce for multiple media. But beyond the cameras in the newsroom is the mindset we're fostering about how to plan and execute on the coverage and deploy it throughout all our media in a way that makes the most sense from the users' point of view.

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