Chicago's 'Northwest Herald,' Ready for Its Close-Up

By: Mark Fitzgerald The good thing about the Northwest Herald's location in the far northwestern reaches of the Chicago metropolitan area is that it's attracting legions of newcomers from the city and close-in suburbs. The bad thing is, these migrants take their old newspaper habits with them -- and they don't know a darn thing about the Northwest Herald.

"We find that it takes them a while to learn about the newspaper," said Publisher John Rung. "It's difficult when we're the smallest player in the Chicago newspaper market. You've got Paddock, Hollinger, Tribune -- and then there's little ol' us."

Paddock Publications owns Illinois' third-largest paper, the Daily Herald. Hollinger International publishes the second-largest, the Chicago Sun-Times, plus the four former Copley dailies and numerous weeklies that circulate in the northwestern and west suburbs. And Tribune Co. publishes the Chicago Tribune, not just the biggest in Illinois, but the eighth-largest in the United States.

Amidst these heavyweights is the 37,231-circulation Northwest Herald, published out of Crystal Lake, Ill., by family-owned Shaw Newspapers.

Making its marketing task even more difficult, the Northwest Herald's circulation area of McHenry and northern Kane Counties is just a tiny part of the Chicago market -- accounting for perhaps 3% of the population - - so broadcast television advertising would be wasteful and prohibitively expensive.

"We've been trying to look at some, I hate to use the term, guerrilla marketing, but that's what it is," Rung said.

The first of these efforts begins Valentine's Day, the Northwest Herald announced yesterday.

An informal news-sharing arrangement between the far suburban daily and a big-league TV station in downtown Chicago is blossoming into a formal partnership that the Northwest Herald expects will give it unprecedented market exposure.

Some months ago, the Northwest Herald newsroom began sharing stories with the network owned-and-operated TV station, which calls itself CBS 2 Chicago. "They've been learning about McHenry County, and realizing what is happening with the growth up here," Rung said. "We've had a couple of decent stories coming out of here, and they get an exclusive because we're right on top of what's happening.'

Beginning Feb. 14, the arrangement becomes formal. In a statement announcing the partnership, Editor Chris Krug emphasized its origins in the two newsrooms.

"Purpose is what separates this from the vast majority of newspaper-TV relationships in the Chicago market," he said. "This isn?t about marketing. This is about news, and each medium sharing the best it has to offer with the other."

But the formal arrangement also expands the partnership into marketing.

As part of the deal, the newspaper will carry ads for CBS 2 Chicago, and will feature one of its weathermen, Steve Baskerville, on its weather page. In exchange, the station is giving the paper some 15-second advertising spots.

The paper had commercials in the can -- it's been advertising on local cable outlets -- but they were not right for airing across Chicago, Rung said: "Our slogan is, 'The Northwest Herald. Closer to home.' But of course for 97% of people who see this commercial, it's not closer to home." The new spots attempt to introduce McHenry County and position the newspaper as the county's best source for news, he said.

"Basically, this is just step one in our plans to be much more aggressive about creating greater awareness about the Northwest Herald in Chicago," Rung said.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here