Chicago, like one-half of the country, got hit with a major storm earlier this week. This “snowicane” produced 70 miles per hour winds and 25 feet waves hitting the shoreline from Lake Michigan. It also dumped over 20 inches of snow with the wind creating over 6 feet snow drifts. Lasting over 2 days, it produced a snow day for most on the second day. The city owns approximately 300 plows (close to 600 when you include the plow-equipped garbage trucks); yet, travel was nearly impossible on the second day with main artery streets cleared, but all others nearly impassible.
The Chicago Tribune had news to get out regarding the 3rd largest producing blizzard in history, the shut-down and massive car abandonment on Lake Shore Drive, and even non-blizzard related news. Yet, the snow-filled roads made delivering the physical newspaper to stands, boxes, and homes impossible. It announced that for the first-time ever that it would post today’s edition of the paper online for free. (You can view it here: http://eedition.chicagotribune.com/Olive/ODE/ChicagoTribune/)
The Chicago Tribune does post much of its news online; it has a prominent website. This was unique because for the first time everyone was exposed to how the newspaper appears on an eReader (iPad, etc.). Die-hard hard copy subscribers could not help, but experience what an online subscription feels like. If anything, it shows the hesitators that the physical newspaper experience is similar to the eReader experience (note, I am not stating exactly like). It also made the Chicago Tribune that more relevant to the younger generation which has turned away from reading newspapers.
It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on online newspaper subscriptions. But, this certainly is a big win for the online newspaper formula; it delivered on a day when even the U.S. Postal Service (“neither snow nor rain…”) could not.