• Marc in Madison

Chicago Tribune: Weekly Snapshot of Social Media Posts and Digital Coverage

Updated: Mar 31


This was written for CAS 839: Media Analytics Communication in the Michigan State University Strategic Communications MA program.


About the Chicago Tribune


The Chicago Tribune, founded in 1847, is billed as the Midwest’s largest newspaper (Chicago Tribune, 2021). The newspaper, owned by Tribune Media & Publishing, has won 27 Pulitzer Prizes publishes. The CT serves as the flagship publication of the multi-channel Chicago Tribune Media Group, which is comprised of Daily Southtown, Post-Tribune, Naperville Sun, Lake County News-Sun, The Beacon-News and The Courier-News, over 30 weekly publications, and Chicago Magazine (Chicago Tribune, 2021). Readers may also catch a morning, digital version of the CT online. Additionally, the CT aggregates news stories at www.chicagotribune.com. Turvill (2020) states that in Q1 2020, the CT had a daily print circulation of 130,357—a stark decline from January 2019 (238,100) (Watson, 2020).


Weekly Snapshot: Social and Digital Post Frequency


Reviewing WSJ’s post frequency on Facebook and Twitter, I recorded the following on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. The “Ask Amy” column was a daily constant on both platforms. Facebook likes ranged from low (10) to high (over 2000). Many retweets were from CT news sections (Opinion and Food & Dining). Other retweets are from verified accounts only.


Website versus Social Media Feed


Similar to the social feeds, the CT website presented an overall composite of the local and national news. Many of the story previews at the top were the same posted on Facebook and Twitter. The obvious difference is with the CT website is a higher volume of advertising and a free article limit. My guess is the editors posted compelling content of the day in an effort to drive readers to the website—with an ideal outcome of subscribing—despite a trend of story shares not leading to readership (Beaty, 2021).


This week we learned that digital newspaper readers tend to spend double the time on a news website (Beaty, 2021). The CT’s cherry-picked post referral strategy may prove profitable if the conversion is completed.


Personal News Consumption


My daily news consumption involves this process: Twitter trending, Twitter feed, podcast, repeat. I see what is trending, check my Twitter experts, then listen to podcasts that offer an in-depth study of the same topics. I check news updates all day long and until I take off my glasses at bedtime. The Twitter/podcast connection is strong because—at least for daily podcasts—the topics are the same. So, I learn the top-line information from Twitter, then listen to podcasts to hear more analysis. My main daily podcasts are Daily Beans, The Rachel Maddow Show, and Morning Joe. Not daily but regular podcasts include The New Abnormal Podcast, Prevail, Cleanup on Aisle 45, Game Theory Today, Gaslit Nation, and Politics with Cheri Jacobus.


As I have stated previously, I prefer podcasts to network news because this information is unfiltered and unencumbered by corporate structure and legal restrictions. In short, I like to hear news with a “appropriate profanity,” as is the tagline for the Game Theory Today podcast. It’s a more realistic take on the news, and sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone else mirror the comments you make inside your own home. I prefer this candor and gritty delivery more than the talking heads and news readers on network news. That said, I would be enticed by national newspaper posts on my social media feed (if I maintained social accounts) especially with the urgency of breaking news.


Relative News Interest


I tend to prefer news about politics and entertainment. I skip sponsored content as if it was invisible because I know it’s just a targeted campaign based on what metrics I fulfill. When I see a news post, I am equally interested in the construction of the headline and the mechanics of the writing as I am the possible bias and hidden motivations of the organization. Thus, I don’t click items merely because they are local or because they feature click-bait appeal (Stroud, 2017; Beaty, 2021). Local news is not as important to me because even though I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 17 years, I still consider Michigan as my home. Puff pieces and feature articles seem frivolous in this news climate, but I do appreciate the “social utility” of a solid human-interest story (Stroud, 2017, p. 4).


(News)room for Improvement


I was surprised to see such a small number of threads. Twitter is a platform where reporters can unpack long-form and deep-dive content in a sequential way. If I were an editor, I would pitch more threaded content—citing CT reporting—to offer readers deep analysis of issues and stories. I agree with the proportion of posts between the two platforms. I would guess the analytics, like Hiers (2015) suggests, show the CT editors what content resonates more and what sections receive the most attention. Twitter seems a more reliable social platform for news, unlike Facebook which has devolved into a disinformation channel. The CT favors Twitter for news, which rebukes the statistics. As of Q3 2020, there were 2.7 billion daily active users on Facebook versus 187 million daily active users on Twitter (Chen, 2021).


Theoretically, I would suggest increasing new posts on Facebook. But realistically, I think news organizations that post heavily on Facebook subtract from their credibility because of rising sophistication and understanding of Facebook users in terms of misinformation, disinformation, algorithms/feed predictions, malicious targeting, and hate group polarization (Oresum, 2016; Sandler, 2021).


References


Beaty, J. (2021, March 7). Social Metrics – News Use. [Video]. Retrieved from Michigan State University, Digital Media Strategies. Desire 2 Learn: https://mediaspace.msu.edu/media/Social%20%20Metrics%20-%20News%20Use%20%20(12m%2035s)%20/1_8vit7kah


Chen, J. (2021, February 3). 36 essential social media marketing statistics to know for 2021. Sprout Social. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-statistics/


Chicago Tribune, (2018), November 16). About the Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/about/


Hiers, M. (2015, May 13). Analytics and the newspaper industry: What matters and why? Pando Logic. https://www.pandologic.com/publishers/news-publishers/analytics-newspaper-industry-matters/


Oresum, W. (2016, January 3). Who controls your Facebook feed. Slate. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/cover_story/2016/01/how_facebook_s_news_feed_algorithm_works.html


Sandler, R. (2021, March 25). Live updates: Zuckerberg deflects blame for capitol attack at congressional disinformation hearing. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelsandler/2021/03/25/live-updates-facebook-twitter-and-google-ceos-testify-at-disinformation-hearing/?sh=73703ab1352d


Stroud, N. J. (2017, March 14). Why we click on news stories. American Press Institute. https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/research-review/why-we-click-on-news-stories/


Turvill, W. (2020, October 22). Top ten US newspaper circulations: Biggest print titles have lost 30% of sales since 2016 election. Press Gazette. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/top-ten-us-newspaper-circulations-biggest-print-titles-have-lost-30-of-sales-since-2016-election/


Watson, A. (2020, November 20). Leading daily newspapers in the United States in September 2017 and January 2019, by circulation (in thousands). Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/184682/us-daily-newspapers-by-circulation/


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