Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tribune Co.: Work in Progress

The Tribune Company’s famed media properties are losing circ and bleeding red ink. Can Lee Abrams fix a mess this big?

On April 1, 2009, anyone who typed into his favorite browser would have learned the big news surrounding The Accelerator. As the home page of the Chicago-based Tribune Company’s Web portal explained, The Accelerator was “a high-power, low-cost communications device” that would “make all media, including the Internet, obsolete by next year.” It used “nano-technology to aggregate the sum of all human knowledge” in order to deliver it “directly into your brain.” The project won the effusive praise of Tribune COO Randy Michaels, who credited staffers with putting in “long hours, many of them sober.”

The Accelerator was also, of course, an April Fool’s Day prank.

“Yes, I was involved in writing some of that silliness,” confesses Lee Abrams, the company’s chief innovations officer. In truth, however, The Accelerator was far, far more than an April Fool’s gag. It was emblematic of just how far the once supremely buttoned-up Tribune Company—which roosts within an 84-year-old Gothic-revival tower downtown—has come in the past year or so. Back in the day, for the Tribune to give anything as public as a home page over to a prank would have been about as likely as finding white-linen tablecloths at the Billy Goat Tavern. [Click for MORE]
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