Sam Zell

More stream of consciousness from Tribune's thinker

Tribune's new innovation honcho Lee Abrams finally began work today after a career in radio and a bunch of pre-memos. He immediately blogged his notes on a vision for the newspaper front pages. Think maps — lots and lots of BIG maps. Oh, and he wants new name tags -- and a new name for WGN the Superstation. Whole thing is after the jump, but here's a representative sample:

The first one may make heads explode. Not my intention, so pardon me if it casuses an exploding effect. I was thinking what a newspaper might look like, if newspapers never before existed. Then a few comments on Superstation after watching Sunday. I have no idea if it's right, wrong or a complete strike out, but imagine:


THE FRONT SECTION: The front page is four large and visually stunning maps:
(placement could depend on the prior day's activity or importance based on the city the paper serves)

LOCAL AREA
THE USA
THE WORLD
ROTATING (meaning a map of the most relevant area not covered by the above three. If Europe is blowing up, then its Europe)

On each map is an icon with a small headline...but different obvious icons for different types of events. A "fire symbol" for a fire, etc...

The second page is 100% mini headlines, or an index, visually interesting of course with info on where to find the story.

That's it for Section One. Big, bold, visually attractive. Two pages

INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS: Same format. A huge map with icons/stickpins and then the index on page two. Same concept as section one but only focused on the topic of the section

It's just so cool I bet people can hardly stand the excitement!

It's Great To Be Here

Just arrived on site and hope to meet everyone as soon as possible. We might do a presentation in the next week or three. Maybe to clear up the "huh" factor from some previous notes. I brought a lot of things to share. Pretty overwhelming right now as there's SO much to take in and understand.

Walking in this morning, the first thing I got was a name tag. We might want to change those. Won't have much effect on things, but then again, probably easy to do and it's something you look at every day. I'm not sure if the whole "citizenship, customer satisfaction, etc..." thing really resonates. Kind of a given that of course you want to be a good citizen, satisfy customers etc...We can probably update those messages to things that are a little more potent. Not exactly a major priority, but everything counts.

Then I was unpacking things...including notes....lots of notes. Here are two:

The first one may make heads explode. Not my intention, so pardon me if it casuses an exploding effect. I was thinking what a newspaper might look like, if newspapers never before existed. Then a few comments on Superstation after watching Sunday. I have no idea if it's right, wrong or a complete strike out, but imagine:


THE FRONT SECTION: The front page is four large and visually stunning maps:
(placement could depend on the prior day's activity or importance based on the city the paper serves)

LOCAL AREA
THE USA
THE WORLD
ROTATING (meaning a map of the most relevant area not covered by the above three. If Europe is blowing up, then its Europe)

On each map is an icon with a small headline...but different obvious icons for different types of events. A "fire symbol" for a fire, etc...

The second page is 100% mini headlines, or an index, visually interesting of course with info on where to find the story.

That's it for Section One. Big, bold, visually attractive. Two pages

INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS: Same format. A huge map with icons/stickpins and then the index on page two. Same concept as section one but only focused on the topic of the section

THE ACTUAL SECTIONS: Re-think these...maybe re-name them. Maybe MORE but shorter sections to combat the specialization the Internet offers AND to "own" news zones better through anti generic specialization Within the section is the content. The stories. BUT--as a "trademark" next to EVERY story is a short but detailed list of links for DEEP web coverage, video etc.... The idea is EVERY story so the web is pounded home. Maybe re-think the entire way a section flows too

The idea is to:

1. Dramatically update the look to something visually arresting. ATTENTION GETTING beyond the headline itself. The "form" is attention getting. The newness.
2. Create a different but easier navigation
3. Create a Quick Read (front two pages); Detail (the stories in the sections) and Deep Dive (CLEAR web directives)
4. The front two pages of every section are assembled and given away FREE to commuters, etc...
5. Makes the actual content easier to find and get into
6. Allows for greater specialization. If Crosswords are important, why not a game SECTION.

I think this "kind" of re-think can spearhead more re-invention. I think this "kind" of look can definitely mobilize the great content in print and on web by a)delivering a dramatic new and intelligent look b)make it easier for people to find the content

Most importantly I think this sort of thing would shake people in a good way without sacrificing the comfort or the integrity of what a newspaper delivers. A powerful new look that unleashes the timeless power of print...makes a statement--e Aren't tweaking...We aren't wallowing in grief. We are aggressively designing the future!

...Then I was watching Superstation WGN.

*Is "Superstation" a good name? It didn't strike me as that Super...and does Superstation MEAN anything?

*The channel can OWN Chicago Baseball...better.

*Superstation logo (bottom right lower corner). the "S" might be changed to a baseball image for the week. Also the "WGN" below 'Superstation' is SO small. it looks like a bug or a smudge on the screen.

*There seem to be a lot of different themes for the baseball week promos. The black collage (kinda cool), the green(kinda bland), etc...Maybe ONE united look would be more potent. Te black collage was MUCH more exciting than the others.

*"Hi, I'm Ted Lilly and you're watching..." clip might be better if you asked him to tell us his favorite baseball moment. It would be more HIM than the rather typical "Hi, I'm___and you're watching____" which is SO overused. Maybe a V/O "Ted Lilly for Superstation" and then he launches into something that HE wants to talk about instead of card reading. He LOOKS like he's bored...reading a card...which he IS.
I think these testimonials can be great! But think beyond Cubs stars...even the old legends would be great...hell, maybe even a beer vendor

*I think more MEAT in the Baseball week promotion. Maybe fast paced: "32 Baseball Movies...17 Classic Games...12 Cubs Highlights...goto www---- for the LINE-UP" Even if no-one goes to the web for the lineup it FEELS like its MUST WATCH for Baseball fans so its SOOOOO much more than a lot of baseball movies. Even the promo for the Rookie. It's MORE. "The Rookie..one of 57 of the most amazing Baseball movies..."

*Maybe a countdown format. The___Most important Baseball movies: In order! Add some "drama" to the airing of the movies.

*A Countdown to opening pitch timer. 24/7 on the screen

*The WGN baseball archives are probably among the deepest on the planet. I'd suggest mobilizing those so the week has more MEAT.

*More Baseball "sounds" in the mix. even WGN TV calls from the great moments last year. Gotta give FANS "chills"

*Words like CELEBRATING Baseball 2008 can be powerful. More Fan like think...less TV like wording.

* Here's an article from USA TODAY on a 3-day channel on XM called "Play Ball"--We've had 3 years to experiment and get it right, but it has that "eccentric...all the way to the bank" that turns users into fans:

Marathon musical baseball warm-up
Lou Brutus, who oversees punk rock, heavy metal and hard rock programming for XM Satellite Radio, a subscription service, put together something different for a 48-hour marathon that started at 12:01 a.m. ET today.
Versions of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" including a Yiddish one, a "surf music" one and a rendition by Frank Zappa are among 412 baseball-themed songs included in XM's temporary Play Ball! channel.
Says Brutus, who considers himself a "baseball degenerate" who scours flea markets for vintage audio: "My favorite Take Me Out version is by an artist identified as 'Bruce Springstone.' You'd swear it's Bruce Springsteen."
(FYI: In a related programming note, Charles Osgood on CBS' Sunday Morning will report Take Me Out lyricists Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer never went to a baseball game and weren't even interested in the sport. Art needn't imitate life.)
The Play Ball! programming includes audio ranging from Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on first?" routine, actor James Earl Jones reading Casey at the Bat as well as Jesse Jackson's 1972 eulogy of Jackie Robinson.
Brutus isn't sure where all the songs originated, like "The Lou Piniella Polka" "baseball is one of those things where you have people from every musical genre throwing things in there" or "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request," although its roots seem obvious.
"Great art is born of misery, and who's more miserable than Cubs fans?" The show, he adds, will "make for some odd listening."
******

*In the "I know you know this, but I'll mention it anyways department":

--HUGE opportunity to dramatically improve the promo Voice (pretty typical TV); The visuals (pretty typical TV) and the Sonics (pretty typical TV)...and the logo.

--"It's Great to be Home". Not sure that means ANYthing.

OK...those are a few thoughts. Again, thoughts. I'm not coming in with any preconceived notions...just thoughts....about winning.

If there's anything I'm learning this first day, it that I refuse to accept that we can't win by inventing(Web), re-inventing(TV & Print) or just maximizing.


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