Former Sun-Times publisher heading Tribune content marketing

John Barron

John Barron

Veteran Chicago media executive John Barron, who rose from reporter to publisher in his 17 years at the Sun-Times, is joining Tribune Co. to lead its content marketing unit.

Barron, 55, was hired Thursday as chief content officer of Tribune Content Agency (formerly named Tribune Media Services News and Features Division). In his newly created position, which is separate from the newsroom, he will focus on branded content strategy, including the creation and distribution of sponsored content.

Calling Barron “the right person for the job,” James Pinnick, general manager of Tribune Content Agency, said in an email to staff: “He brings a wide range of talent and experience, including leadership roles in both editorial and business sectors of the media business.”

“This is going to be fun,” Barron told me. “It pushes all of my buttons from content creation and audience building to sales and marketing across all the platforms.

“Content marketing is definitely an exciting, growing field. There is so much opportunity out there for smart companies and brands to try something new and creative with their marketing. And the Tribune Content Agency is perfectly poised to help with strategy, creation and distribution. When you have a great team, a great company and a great track record, great things follow.”

A Chicago native and the pride of Fenwick High School and Marquette University, Barron joined the Sun-Times in 1995 as a business reporter. He quickly moved up to top editorial and management roles, including editor-in chief, general manager, and more than three years as publisher of the Sun-Times and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

Following a change of ownership at Sun-Times Media, Barron stepped down last May as executive editor to form his own communications, media and management consulting business.

Added Barron: “I don’t officially start at the Tribune Tower until next week, but it already feels like home. Every time I walk into the building I run into a half a dozen friends and media colleagues. In the last week, I’ve set a personal record for hugs.

“And this really marks a return for me to the Tribune Co. I delivered the paper as a kid — increasing sales by three copies in one nine-month period.”