The editor's job at Chicago magazine is open now that 20-year vet Dick Babcock has announced his retirement.
What are this new editor's first moves?
It's a tough spot. The book has always been a bit of an afterthought in Chicago's media market. Now it's battling CS, Time Out and other pubs targeting the same demographic. Not to mention tough competition from Web sites that are picking off its verticals one by one. Best restaurants? Yelp. Fun stuff to do in the city? Gapers Block. Service content aimed at moms? Just Google "Chicago mommy blog." Best doctors? Yelp again.
You can see the dilemma this might pose by comparing Chicago mag's stats to those at New York. Yes, New York's a bigger brand and a bigger city, but we're looking at a nearly 25-fold difference. And Chicago mag's demo is heavily weighted toward over 50, while NY performs well in all of the over-18 demos, including 18-34. Ouch.
Babcock says the magazine is on solid financial ground, so apparently there's a market in selling ads aimed at the over-50 set. But it's not exactly a growth engine.
One hint might come from NY mag. They're working exactly the right strategy, launching web-only vertical sites like Grub Street to supplement and eventually replace the print audience. You could build a nice business for yourself knocking off sites like this for Chicago music, food, fashion, and ... dare I say ... politics.