Sun-Times owner sees national network as key to survival

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times

Will a new national strategy help save Chicago’s money-losing No. 2 local newspaper?

The struggling parent company of the Sun-Times is banking its future on the creation of a network of websites and mobile apps delivering content from multiple sources to 70 cities across the country.

Wrapports LLC announced a plan Tuesday to launch Sun Times Network as a separate brand, conceived by Michael Ferro Jr., chairman of Wrapports. “Michael Ferro will become chairman of the board of the Sun Times Network and spearhead this aggressive digital push,” Wrapports CEO Timothy P. Knight said in a statement. “He deserves great credit for that leadership and for this innovation which begins an exciting new chapter for the Sun-Times brand.”

Set for this Friday, the launch will coincide with plans disclosed here last week for the company to sell all of its suburban publications — including six dailies and 32 Pioneer Press weeklies — to Tribune Publishing, parent company of the Chicago Tribune. That will leave the much smaller Wrapports with only the daily Sun-Times and the free weekly Reader.

Richard Roeper

Richard Roeper

In addition to material aggregated and curated from local sources in each market, the network will provide “national exposure to the paper’s award-winning entertainment, sports and political coverage,” according to a company statement. Insiders said that would include content of national interest from such Sun-Times writers as movie columnist Richard Roeper, TV critic Lori Rackl, celebrity columnist Bill Zwecker, Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet and sports columnists Rick Telander and Rick Morrissey.

Under the new Sun Times Network banner, the beta version of chicago.suntimes.com includes content aggregated from such sources as chicagotribune.com, RedEye Chicago and Chicago magazine (all of which are owned by Tribune Publishing), Crain’s Chicago Business, the Daily Herald, ESPN Chicago and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

The beta version of newyork.suntimes.com draws from the New York Daily News, Bloomberg News, Newsday, Gotham Gazette, Fox New York and the websites of various sports teams, among other sources.

Each page bears a variation of the same slogan: “The Earth Revolves Around Chicago,” “The Earth Revolves Around New York,” “The Earth Revolves Around Birmingham,” etc.

Wrapports said the new company was being funded in part by a $14 million investment from Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, founder of the wireless phone company Digicel. CEO of Sun Times Network will be Tim Landon, co-founder of CareerBuilder.com and Cars.com.