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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chicago Tribune Live Chats Are Neither Live Nor Chats. Discuss.

The Tribune is stepping up its interactivity with fuzzy reader-servicing gimmicks like a "live chat," occuring as we speak, with "Ask" Amy Dickinson.

But while the Trib's heart is in the right place--in terms of forward-thinking webbiness, it's about where the Washington Post's was, oh, maybe three-and-a-half years ago--its crack IT team is apparently still busy finishing up that Y2K update.

Here's how the "chats" work: Reader fills out web form with question. Web form generates an e-mail that goes to web-person somewhere in the Tribune Tower. Web-person forwards e-mail to, say, "Ask" Amy Dickinson. "Ask" Amy Dickinson responds to the e-mail and sends it back to the web-person. Web-person posts both the question and "Ask" Amy Dickinson's response on the "live chat" site.

In other words, the Tribune has harnessed the power of a 15-year-old technology--e-mail--and unleashed it on its hungry readers. Keep up the good work, guys! You'll make up that billion dollars in no time!