Tribune Publishing and longtime rival Wrapports, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, were supposed to remain independent following Wrapports boss Michael Ferro’s investment in Tribune. But that isn’t stopping them from partnering in a new content-sharing agreement.
Crain’s Chicago Business reports that the publishers have entered into a venture with a third publisher, McClatchy Co., that will allow them to share content in areas including sports, politics, and entertainment.
The new collaborative arrangement hinges on a media technology company, Aggrego, owned by Wrapports. In one early example, links in content about politics on the Chicago Tribune Web site were referring readers to another site, PoliticsChatter.com, operated by Aggrego.
Sports content is hosted at another site, 120sports.com.
An unnamed source with Aggrego tells Crain’s that the publishers are splitting revenue with Aggrego. Aggrego previously provided the technology backbone for a national content and advertising network operated by the Chicago Sun Times, called the Sun Times Network.
Ferro, who became majority owner of the Sun Times with its purchase by Wrapports in 2011, bought a 16.6% stake in Tribune Publishing for $44.4 million last month, making him the largest individual shareholder in the company. He soon exercised his power as non-executive chairman to push out former CEO Jack Griffin, who was replaced by Justin Dearborn.
At the time, both companies denied that Ferro’s purchase of a stake in Tribune signaled a merger move by the rival companies, pointing out that the terms of the deal forbid Ferro from taking a more than 25% stake in Tribune. Subsequently, Ferro said he would donate his stake in Wrapports to a charitable foundation in order to eliminate any potential conflict of interest.
However, the new content-sharing deal with Aggrego suggests that even if a merger isn’t in the works, other forms of cooperation, and even consolidation of certain business functions, may still be possible. The Sun-Times previously outsourced its printing to Tribune, and Tribune also acquired a number of the Sun-Times’ suburban newspapers from Wrapports in 2014.