I hate to start sounding like a shill for the Tribune Company, but I’ve got to admit that they finally have a product that “gets it” in growing and retaining new readership online.

It’s chicagobreakingnews.com. Powered by the Chicago Tribune and its other media roles (WGN TV and radio and the cable CLTV), its an aggragator of breaking news in the Chicago region. The more I’ve been following it, the more I like it.

What makes it work is simple … and it’s what I’ve been espousing since the start of this blog:

1. It uses its own content (compiled from its various TribCo web sites) to highlight the breaking news it does best.

2. What content it can’t provide is gathered from its print and broadcast competitors. Note the right-side rail with headlines from all the competing Chicago TV stations, Suburban newspapers, and it’s main competitor, the Chicago Sun-Times.

3. It’s all packaged in an easily navigable home page.

4. And most importantly, from the looks of it, it’s very labor-UNintensive.

I would expect that, as more people discover it, it will gain popularity as the place to go for breaking news in Chicago…maybe even more so than the Tribune Web site. And as more eyes come to chicagobreakingnews, the more valuable it will become for advertisers.

Plus … if TribCo execs are savvy enough … it could become even more of a revenue tool by providing direct delivery and or e-blasts to customers for a modest fee.

And, I would expect as the competitors study their readership numbers, they see more eyes coming to the story from chicagobreakingnews.com, but then going back when they’re through.

At its core, it goes to what is becoming new reader loyalty. It doesn’t matter where the content originates. Readers will be loyal to the one who delvers the news in a format and timetable that meets their lifestyle needs.

Don’t know if this is one of Lee Abram’s brain children, but if it is, maybe there is some substance behind his Col. Kurtz memos.

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