My News Diet

Fallow newspaper boxes in downtown Chicago, January 2012. Credit: Dan X. O’Neil.

Because I work in politics, friends often assume I like to talk about the politics and the schemes or expected outcomes of various elections and maneuvers. But really, I’m much more interested in talking about where people get their information. Where you gather your information informs how you think, and whether or not you’re a critical thinker, versus someone who operates on received wisdom.

My parents and grandparents on both sides were sharp, critical thinkers, so as a young man talking about something I’d learned, I’d often hear, “Are you sure about that? You should check your sources,” from some elder. My desire to have a bulletproof argument turned me into a reader of as many sources as I could find. As a professional, I don’t think I have any bulletproof arguments, but they’re at least nuanced.

Generally, when I’m consuming news, I categorize content into four groups:

Hard Information – This the basic who, what where and when. The most valuable kind of reporting. It’s the hardest to produce and the least sexy. Original reporting (not a retread of someone else’s work) is typically found in only the big daily newspapers, CNN.com (not the TV channel) and niche reporting sites.

Analysis – This is a tricky one, since there’s lots of analysis written by people that don’t know their topic well. I try to look for experienced reporters who can explain why a thing is happening, not what will happen next.

Future Prediction – Here I’m looking for clear domain experts. People that have been in the industry or following it for decades. Good writing in this genre is rare, because it requires deep research and constant immersion with other deep thinkers in the chosen domain, as well as an ability to explain the technical aspects of a domain.

Gossip & Political Sports – This is the garbage I try to avoid. Most of what you see on any cable network and the vast majority of political reporting. He said, she said reactions. Horse race poll reporting. The stuff that just gets you outraged or fired up. I try to block it out, because I don’t understand the world any better as a result of consuming it.

So, to give you a sense of my process, here’s the news media I read and consume regularly:

Daily Local News

Blessed with a robust local news scene, Chicago is bursting with news outlets. It’s impossible to get to them all every day, so I do a lot of skimming, focusing on reporters I know and like. Every weekday morning I read a stack of local email newsletters, starting with my old publication, The Daily Line, and then Politico’s Illinois Playbook, Capitol Fax, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Block Club. TDL and Playbook include roundups of big political stories from other local publications, so that’s how I usually end up getting to stories from the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, Pro Publica Illinois, and WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station.

Time is a big factor every morning, since I need to get through a lot of content before I start my work day. I don’t really surf local news website front pages any more, since I find scrolling through their sites to find stories to be slower than getting links from local aggregators. Yet, I’m still reading a ton of articles from these local publications, so I’m a paying subscriber to the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, Block Club, The Daily Line and Capitol Fax. I know it’s a lot, but I still get through the political news of each one daily.

I should note that I’m usually not reading entire whole articles. Instead, I tend to skim articles rather than read them in depth. Most Chicago City Hall reports are structured so that the real news is only in the first four or five graphs. After that comes reaction quotes, and then background. Reaction quotes are totally useless to me, since once you know who the players are, you can pretty much guess what they’re going to say. And the background is well, background. I’ve been there before.

I’m also not really reading paper versions of anything any more. Except on Sunday, I just don’t have time to read through paper – and I’m not really interested in most of what’s in paper editions. So it’s digital, digital, digital.

Daily National News

I used to subscribe to a few national email newsletters, notably Morning Briefing from the New York Times, The 202 from the Washington Post, Politico’s morning Playbook and Axios AM. I’ve stopped reading most of them for various reasons, because I felt like the content was too gossipy, with more of a lean towards “the sport” and gossip of politics, with less hard information.

I figured out that most of what was in NYT and WaPo’s newsletters could be found on their excellent website front pages (I subscribe to both digital editions), and most of Politico’s gossip was totally disposable. I enjoy Axios AM largely because its writer, Mike Allen, is so smart and every few days he has some insight nobody else has.

So, every morning I scroll through the NYT and WaPo front pages as well as The Atlantic, clicking on articles and opinion pieces I want to read. I usually end up with six or seven articles per publication. Again, I skim the articles, because many times the coverage is similar. Here, I’m mostly looking for details I didn’t see somewhere else, or an analysis on a topic I hadn’t considered before.

I find that between those three sources, I’m able to keep up on the basics on a daily basis.

I should note here that I’m not a cable news watcher. I just don’t find any of it useful. I can get a more in-depth story faster in print, and I just have no use for the bombastic commentary the broadcast in the evenings.

Weekly National News

A couple times a week, usually during my lunch break, or a slow period at my desk in the afternoon, I surf through a series of sites I call “other news”. I never know what I’m going to find, but generally I look for analysis and future prediction here. These often turn into long reads, which I generally save to read on my phone during my evening train ride home using the amazing Instapaper.

My reading list is a varied stack, including Buzzfeed News, New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, Foreign Policy, American Spectator, The Intercept, Pacific Standard, Talking Points Memo, Chicago Magazine, Business Insider, DefenseOne, The Root and The Guardian. There’s plenty of others that I check out once a month or so, but the above get my regular attention. I think of these as the variety that gives me my “hmmm” moments, from a perspective or insight that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Technology News

Technology is interesting to me mostly because it seems to portend so much of what’s to come. The tech business is struggling with our world’s biggest social problems, so I tend to think of it as a canary in the coal mine. When I was younger I hung on every last technical development, and could argue the merits of RISC versus CISC processors (R.I.P. Byte Magazine), but today I don’t have the interest or energy to follow it as in depth as I once did. Now, I’m mostly looking to understand business strategies more than anything.

I used to subscribe to PandoDaily, The Information and Stratechery. They are all excellent, but their detail turned into an information overload. Now I subscribe to the free weekly version of Stratechery, the well written Monday Note email newsletter and Benedict Evans’ weekly newsletter. Every week I also browse Recode for Kara Swisher’s consistently newsmaking interviews and watch Marcus Brownlee’s fun-to-watch product reviews, MKBHD, on YouTube. Felix Salmon’s new weekly “Axios Edge” newsletter seems like it’ll be a keeper too. Then, I love to watch Scott Galloway’s Winners & Losers videos as well as his new, hilarious podcast, Pivot with Kara Swisher.

Finally, because I can’t get enough Apple-related news, I read Daring Fireball, an Apple-centric blog started sixteen years ago by John Gruber, that has turned out to be some of the sharpest technology commentary available.

Media News

I’m constantly intrigued by the business of news, since I spent eight years starting, running or working in news startups. It’s a terrible, unforgiving business that touches everyone’s life, and yet continues to evade most attempts to create a sustainable business. The business of news, as opposed to the editorial part, attracts an incredible mix of super-rich egotists, crusading brainiacs and bombastic salespeople, creating a thinking person’s soap opera, all in service of our democracy. How could you not love it?

There’s been lots of great analysis and reporting on media. But it media reporting is a slippery slope into preachy, leftist commentary. I’m more interested in the business of news: How are you going to make enough money to keep the doors open? Avoiding gossip and preaching cuts down my sources quickly.

Every morning I read Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources email, a staggeringly thorough review of what every network and big publication ran with the last day. For Chicago media, I read Robert Feder’s email newsletter, which is basically like a local “who’s working where” tracker.

Weekly, I check out CJR.org, Nieman Lab for stories on what news publications are worrying about, and listen to Peter Kafka’s Recode Media podcast and the Digiday Podcast for interviews with media industry leaders. The podcast interviews are where I learn the most and get the best sense of where things are going.

For Fun

Hard to believe, but I still have more time left to read and listen for fun. I read Dave Pell’s Next Draft email, which comes out every weekday afternoon, Jason Kotte’s website of cool stuff and commentary, which he’s been running since the 90’s, Ed Yong’s “Ed’s Up” newsletter, Tyler Cowen’s “Conversations With Tyler” podcast, which comprises of smart interviews with smart people of all kinds, and I recently subscribed to Matt Taibbi’s The Fairway, which is a political non-fiction book about Washington published in the form of a weekly newsletter. Finally, I make sure I read the print versions of New York Magazine, which is just the most beautifully laid out and well written magazine you can find, as well as The New Yorker, which has great writing of all kinds and is a pleasure for the eye. Oh! And on Sundays, I pour through every section of the The New York Times in print with my weekly cup of coffee. A ritual I’ve kept for over thirty years.

It’s a lot. In fact, now that I’ve written all this down, I can’t believe I consume all this regularly. And yet, I’m always looking for more. If you know of a newsletter, website or podcast I should, check out, please drop me a line!

How I Should Have Seen The Fall Of Alternative Newspapers In 2003

New York City newspaper boxes, April 5, 2016. Source: Flickr/Dumbo711

After years of working in the federal government, the annual conference of alternative newspapers seemed downright decadent to me, and maybe it was. Taking over a downtown Pittsburgh hotel in July 2003, many attendees wore shorts and t-shirts, while evening conference activities included a rave on top a 9-story parking garage slated for demolition, and an awards ceremony emceed by Dan Savage, where every winner had to either take off an item of clothing or do a shot with him. Savage was drunk by the end, but he’d brought two largely naked go-go boys to help him get through the afternoon.

My friend and business partner Steve Sherman and I were in Pittsburgh to meet some alt paper owners and maybe see if we could find an owner interested in selling to us. I was finishing business school after working in the Clinton Administration and was looking for a new cause to take up. Steve, a commercial banker by training, was attracted by the average 25% annual margins many alts were taking in.

In 2003, the future looked bright for alternative newspapers. Led by the Village Voice, Chicago Reader and Phoenix’ New Times, not only were the papers making money hand over fist, but they also retained the patina of counter-culture, with a balance of local muckraking articles, grunge band and art reviews, Dan Savage’s sex advice columns, along with thick classified sections including thinly veiled ads for sex workers.

They were an incredible, heady mix of money-making and cool. How could anyone resist?

It turns out, just about everyone at the conference thought so too and were ready to party down to celebrate. Yet, big changes were lurking on the edges, and Steve and I were earnest enough to want to warn everyone, but not sharp enough to see who and what would be bringing the changes.

Introduced around  earlier in the year by the Madison Isthmus owner Vince O’Hern, by the time we got to Pittsburgh Steve and I had already talked to dozens of alt owners about selling and had looked at the books of at least a dozen publications. There were over 100 alternative papers around the country, most founded in the 1960’s and 70’s, so many owners were looking for a way to sell and sail into retirement. Steve and I saw an opportunity in buying alts, tightening up loose business practices and reenforcing fading journalistic standards to draw in new readers.

But the biggest discovery we’d made talking to alt owners was that alternative newspaper readership was nowhere near the 20-something audience the papers’ counter-culture content led many to assume. In fact, alts’ biggest readership by far was late-40’s to mid-50’s college-educated whites at the time. 20-somethings still read alts, but their interest was soft.

Keep in mind, in 2003, we’d just come out of the first dot-com wave, were still just getting used to the idea of texting, and smart phones were still years away from reality. It was still a paper-based world and Craigslist was still just beginning to rollout from San Francisco.

But from the perspective of alt owners we’d talked to, they were making tons of money and the future was bright. The internet was still mostly dial-up and terrible flip phone apps, so nobody was reading articles online and search was dominated by Yahoo. Still, most alts had at least one “digital editor” on staff, and publishers were trying to figure out where this internet stuff was going. It seemed as if every idea was as good as the last, and conference discussions were open and free-ranging.

Dodging Hawaiian shirt-clad editors and ripped-jeans clad conference-goers, Steve and I desperately tried to pin down publishers and owners of small market alternative newspapers to talk about a sale. We’d put together a couple million dollars of equity from investors, so we could either buy a couple small papers or one medium-sized one. O’Hern, who became a believer in us after we went through his books and helped him make a couple hundred thousand dollars more while keeping our hands off his editorial team, was making introductions for us.

A few owners politely listened, a handful welcomed follow up discussions requesting absolute secrecy. But the vast majority of owners outright rejected us, saying, “Who are you anyway? You don’t work in the newspaper business!”

It was shocking to us, since at the time every single one of the alt paper owners had started their anti-establishment publications from scratch, with little to no previous newspaper business. Now that they were the establishment, alt owners wanted credentials. But outside of our work for The Isthmus and our M.B.A.s, we had none.

As we sat and listened to conference sessions we were staggered by the general lack of forward thinking. The Big Internet Sensation everyone at the conference talked about was a web page created by The Reader that showed all the Chicago zip codes in their delivery area. It had become a traffic magnet since it was one of the few places online that mapped Chicago ZIP codes. Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed at how such a simple idea became a great web traffic draw.

Print at conference was given much more credibility than digital. Of course back in 2003 a small percentage of people were surfing the web, but even so, it took a lot of work to ignore the digital future. And yet…the conference hosted innumerable sessions on print design, and only one session on digital. The one with the Chicago ZIP code map.

Being young, I took rejection from alt owners and backward thinking as evidence that I needed to try harder to get their attention. I just lacked an opportunity.

My chance came in a conference session labeled “The Future of Alternative Audiences” or something like that. It was a panel discussion with about 100 or so editors and publishers listening and asking questions. I clearly remember the panel members kept dancing around the fact that their audiences were getting older. Ad revenues were steady, and music venues still placed ads, so there was no real problem, was the gist of it.

O’Hern, sitting a few rows away from me in his own Hawaiian shirt, raised a hand and was called on. Bestowed with a massive brush mustache, hirsute arms and a “dees and does” accent, O’Hern commanded the room when he stood to speak. And then he began to talk about me and the work Steve and I had done for him, and that everyone should listen to us. Then O’Hern stood me up and commanded, “Tell them something they should know, Mike.”

Rifling through my brain to come up with something good, I squared my shoulders and looked around the room as I said something like: “We’ve been doing research for the last year. Your audiences are getting older and your brands are becoming associated with middle aged people. You need to either rebuild your pubs with content for younger people or launch new ones to address younger audiences.”

My speech was as popular as a Nixon campaign button for this room of middle-aged counter-culture warriors.

There were a couple of boos, and more than a few people clucked their tongues. But maybe that’s just my memory covering up the dark, dank silence that met my words. I had come to the big party of successful alts to just dump a big pile of shit on them.

Walking out of the session, Vince said, “I think you did great. They need to hear this stuff,” and truthfully, a couple of owners did seek me out to ask more questions, but I certainly hadn’t endeared myself to anyone.

That night Steve and I went out and got hammered and decided that if we were ever going to get an alternative newspaper to sell to outsiders like us, it would be sheer luck.

What we didn’t know then was that around the same time, the owners of the Village Voice in New York, New Times in Phoenix and Creative Loafing in Atlanta were teaming up with private equity firms to buy other alts. Just like us, the private equity firms also saw a huge opportunity in those 25% annual returns, but unlike us, they came armed with much more money and access to tremendous bank debt.

Over the next four years, almost every alternative newspaper in the United States changed hands, most going to either Village Voice Media, New Times Media or Creative Loafing Inc. As Steve and I made calls to alt owners looking for a seller, we heard stories of huge payouts to founders. The new media groups were doing big leveraged buyouts, offering many times more than current revenues as they planned to grow audiences with digital and increase returns with better operations. It was pretty much the same playbook Steve and I had, except we wanted to target a younger demographic and didn’t have access to the same amount of cash as the private equity firms.

Quickly, Steve and I were pushed out of the game by the big boys.

For us, it turned out to be a good thing, since Craigslist came roaring across the country in 2005 decimating alternative newspapers’ huge classifieds business. Then, after the economy crashed in 2008, print display ads crashed too. By 2009, the one-two punch had eviscerated alternative newspaper groups, forcing asset fire sales and layoffs around the country. It didn’t help that most of the papers still lacked strong digital strategies – and their audiences kept getting older while younger readers started using growing digital arts & entertainment sites like Metromix and Time Out to plan out their weekends.

I’d like to say that Steve and I saw it coming back in 2003. But the magnitude of the crash, the death of alts around the country was just too big to conceive back then. Sure, we thought owners were misguided and headed for trouble, but the death of The Village Voice? Impossible!

And right there is the crux of it: As much as you might believe a daily or weekly newspaper is a pillar of our community, that has nothing to do with the strength of its financial foundation and whether or not enough people think it’s worth paying for.

For too long, people in the news business have been dining out on their own legend: That newspapers are critical, important heros we should all honor and value. But the thing is, average people just aren’t paying attention unless you’re producing something interesting.

The signs were there in 2003: Alternative newspapers were attracting fewer new readers with interesting, valuable content. But those of us who cared about them were too in love with them to see the beginning of the end.

It’s Time For Illinois To Subsidize Local News Gathering

The Danville Commercial-News building in Danville, Illinois. Once a 30,000 circulation daily paper, it now claims about 15,000. Credit: Randy von Liski/Flickr

The business of reporting local political news is dying because we consumers just don’t care. It was never that big to begin with, anyway, since while local politics got front page treatment, the real reason we watched, read and listened was to learn about the new movie, restaurant or big game. But the Great Internet Disaggregation has given us Fandango, Yelp and ESPN, and myriad other information sources that do a much better and thorough job. As a result, we’re no longer drawn to news organizations like we once were and miss out on local political news.

Stripped of features, listings and everything fun, newspapers and local television and radio news have doubled down on the hard stuff: City and regional government reporting. It’s all critical information that can directly affect our lives, but for the vast majority of consumers, local politics is boring dreck that pales in comparison to just about everything else on God’s green earth. We’re ditching our news subscriptions for hundreds of other more fun things, like Candy Crush, TMZ, fantasy football sites and whatever else captures our fancy.

While Chicago’s “big” publications, The Chicago Tribune, Sun Times and Chicago Reader still exist, they are all shadows of what they were just ten years ago. Across the Illinois, McClatchy, Lee and Gannett-owned newspapers in smaller cities are often barely beyond pamphlet size on some days. Without help, there’s only one direction for this trend: down.

It’s a tough business competing for eyeballs against all the digital attractions of today’s media age. If news organizations want to survive, they have to focus their reporting resources on things more alluring than city council meetings.

As a result, it’s time for Illinois’ local daily newspapers to do away with paying for city and county reporters and for the state to directly fund a local reporting wire service for every big and medium-sized city and county around the state. Subsidized local reporting could be put into print, but would also be more economically published on local news organizations’ websites, going right to the people often missing quality, local reporting.

A far from radical idea, government subsidies for local news are becoming old hat these days. The Canadian government has debated increasing their local news subsidy to C$350 million (Vice News has already been a beneficiary in Toronto) and the New Jersey legislature just implemented a $5 million local news subsidy.

The Illinois Local News Wire would be inexpensive, as government programs go, and would fight local corruption more efficiently than any other government program. It would free up local news organizations resources so they could be focused on more interesting stories, such as human interest or deep investigative work, that would draw more local readers, strengthening the overall news ecosystem.

We should implement this plan sooner, rather than later, before news audiences completely lose faith in their local publications and there’s nothing left to prop up.

Most consumers are totally uninterested in local government and politics until something important happens. We tune out, concentrating on our personal lives––and then a scandal, tragedy, big sports win or terrible crime occurs. Big or salacious, these events grab our attention and focuses us on our broader community. As a result, news publications experience unpredictable waves, big ups and big downs of audience attention. We all want a copy of the local paper’s front page after the World Series win, but could care less about the county board budget vote the next day.

This kind of wave can be exhilarating, but undulating audiences are hard to monetize. Publishers need consistency to keep advertisers.

Smart editors know this, and employ a litany of stratagems to hold our attention. In Chicago, The Chicago Tribune runs lots of deep investigative stories, thinking that readers want to feel like they’re being educated about government run amok. The Sun Times also has its own splashy investigative stories, with a smattering of crime stories. In the Big Apple, the newly shrunken New York Daily News looks like it will focus on crime stories as well. There’s always a tranche of paranoid citizens that want to know the worst.

Lost in this is boring local government reporting for average citizens. Yes, metro daily newspapers still keep City Hall beat reporters on the job, but it’s viewed as a sunk cost, rather than than a venue for differentiation and to attract daily readers. And in towns like Chicago where there are multiple news outlets covering local government every day, basic city hall reporting is pretty much the same, barring stylistic differences noticeable only by the most dedicated readers. (Insider political publications like The Daily Line and Capitol Fax are a different breed, since they contain a level of detail no average reader would ever care to ingest.)

But smaller cities, like Peoria and Carbondale, are almost entirely lacking regular local government coverage because newsrooms just can’t afford it like in years past. As a result, when something big happens, and news organizations are caught flat-footed, by missing major details or even the entire story, local audiences lose faith in the publication, dropping the daily news habit.

Creating and maintaining The Illinois Local News Wire would be relatively cheap and easy. Contracted on five-year basis and operated by a non-profit news organization, such as Illinois Public Radio or the Illinois Press Association, operating a strong team of text-only reporters and editors for every city and county over 30,000 people in Illinois would cost less than $3 million a year. Like the old City News Bureau in Chicago, reporters would stick to the basics of government meetings, announcements and elections. Investigative work could come from the local paper of record, while The Illinois Local News Wire would provide baseline reporting.

Like other wire services, reporting content would be made available to qualifying news organizations, with a low hurdle, such as membership with The Illinois Press Association, or demonstrating that your organization includes more than one full-time editorial staffer. Like most Associated Press reports, only publications could have access to the reporting. The point is to drive local news publication readership, and for local editors to make local editorial decisions.

Creating an Illinois Local News Wire would free up local news organizations to fill their pages with stories readers really want, give local politicians and leaders a platform to communicate citizens, and ensure local governments across the state get the watchdog reporting they need to stay honest and effective. It’s time for us to recognize that the free market has failed, and local government and politics reporting is too important to let lapse.

Chance Has Just One To Make Chicagoist Work

This morning Chance Bennett, a.k.a., Chance The Rapper, announced his acquisition of Chicagoist from the shambling remains of Joe Ricketts’ DNAInfo-Gothamist company. It’s a great title with a significant audience, and one that I have deep affection for, since I was one of the four founding writers, when “Chicagoist Prime”, Rachelle Bowden, kicked it off in 2004.

Among media-types, there’s been a hue and cry about the publication’s editorial future, especially since in Mr. Bennett’s announcement, via his new song “I Might Need Security”, he says, “I bought the Chicagoist just to run you racist bitches outta business.” Yes, there’s conjecture: but who exactly is he talking about here?

But let’s assume Mr. Bennett can work out a strong, independent editorial policy. The real question is: How is he going to make sure the publication thrives without regular cash injections? What’s the business plan?

Anyone who’s paid attention to news media knows, local publications have been shrinking and closing at a furious rate for the last ten years. The reason: the economics of local news is bad and getting worse.

Chicagoist, despite its local content, did not have a locally operated business. Part of the Gothamist Network, it benefited from being part of a national and somewhat-global chain of -ist publications that sold ad space to national brands. Severed from that chain, Chicagoist is no longer a compelling ad buy for ad agencies who are looking for large quantities of targeted consumers. While Chicagoist may have a few hundred thousands unique visitors a month, that pales in comparison to Tronc’s network or the vast, targetable audience available through an ad exchange.

Many other local publications are generally not doing well. The Chicago Reader was recently sold to owners of The Chicago Crusader, and their new business plan remain unclear. The Sun-Times, sold to a union-led group last year, kept most of the same business team that was hemorrhaging money in the past, and Crain’s Chicago Business has slashed its staff while the paper edition has gotten thinner almost every week.

Crain’s, as well as the once-robust Time Out: Chicago, have put a great deal of energy into hosting paid events. The local media rumor mill says these events have helped prop up earnings, but the efforts required building new infrastructure which doesn’t necessarily translate into more editorial spending. The thinning paper editions and shrinking editorial staffs bear that out.

Launching a new, local, widely-targeted publication is extremely difficult. Chicago is a big enough city that word of mouth doesn’t reach every corner quickly. At the same time, your real competition for local eyeballs isn’t other local publications, but everything global and national. A new publication is trying to steal eyeballs from The Source, The New York Times, High Times, Vox, Le Figaro, Facebook and a million other publications down the long tail.

But Chicagoist has only been closed since November 2017! Plenty of people remember and love it, right? They’ll come right back!

Maybe. Readers are fickle, and once a daily habit gets broken, they have to be given a good reason to come back. And more importantly, they need to hear about it in the first place, and decide they want to see what the fuss is about.

As a result, Mr. Bennett will really only get one opportunity to make his new Chicagoist work. Prospective readers will take one look, and then quickly decide if the new site is worth their time, then either bookmark it, or surf away forever.

This is a hard reality. Many readers have moved on and satiated their content needs with other websites or activities. Contrary to what many journalists believe, news is not part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and most news consumers are not very discerning. It doesn’t matter whether they get it from Yahoo! News, the Chicago Tribune or Chicagoist. What matters is whether or not they read something interesting to talk about with their friends and family.

So, what’s the business plan? Digital advertising is collapsing for local publications and to run events, you need a big, regular audience (A Chicagoist-Chance concert would be cool, but is Mr. Bennett willing to do that every quarter, or month?). Subscription-based publications are thriving, like The Daily Line, a political news site I founded (and sold), or neighborhood-news site Block Club Chicago.

These publications have fierce, dedicated followings that crave a specific kind of reporting. Their audiences are much smaller than ad-supported news sites. I wonder if Chance The Rapper is interested in owning a niche news site with a few thousand, dedicated but paying readers.

I’m sincerely hoping he’s not planning to turn Chicagoist into an expensive platform for his personal political views. We’ve already got that with Progress Illinois, the Illinois News Network, and One Illinois.

And then, there’s an entirely different possibility. Maybe Mr. Bennett wants to turn Chicagoist into a kind of “Players Tribune” for entertainers. Maybe he’d like to use the title as platform for something other than news. Perhaps he is thinking of creating a site about the experience of Black Chicago, a sorely under-reported topic. “Chicagoist” could mean so many things. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to what it’s meant in the past.

In any case, I wish Mr. Bennett’s new publication success. Chicago news media needs more to smile about.

Note: The original post erroneously stated the Chicago Reader had been sold to owners of the Chicago Defender. It is the owners of the Chicago and Gary Crusader newspapers.