Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy
Office: MFC 2-121
Owen Youngman was appointed to the Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy at Medill in January 2009, after a 37-year career at the Chicago Tribune focused on new product development, innovation, and interactive media. He created such Web sites as chicagotribune.com and metromix.com as the Tribune’s first director of interactive media (1995-99); directed the development and launch of RedEye, the Tribune’s successful daily for young urban commuters; and, in nine years as a vice president and senior vice president, oversaw marketing, strategy, and development.
At Medill, Youngman teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. In addition to strategy, his courses focus on innovation, media economics, technology, and the changing cultural and media landscape. He lectures and speaks widely on these topics and often appears on Chicago-area radio and television to discuss news developments and discuss their implications. In fall 2013, he taught one of Northwestern's first six massively open online courses (MOOCs) through University partner Coursera and will teach it again in mid-2014.
A user of online services since 1982, Youngman served on a 1992 task force that created parent Tribune Company’s first explicit technology strategy, focused on creating and storing information in media-independent formats. Earlier, he brought the first Apple II computer into the newsroom, training sports department employees to use VisiCalc to update batting averages and other statistical data on deadline. Later, after inaugurating the Chicago Tribune’s editorial efforts on America Online, in 1995 he received Tribune Co.’s Values Award for directing the year-long, cross-company project that led to Good Eating—a reinvention of the Chicago Tribune food section that was mirrored both on television and online, taking the then-radical approach of making its content available three days before appearance of the printed section.
During a Tribune career that began in 1971 as a copy boy on the weekend night shift, Youngman held newsroom positions including deputy sports editor, associate metropolitan editor/suburban news, associate features editor, associate managing editor/financial news and managing editor/features. His responsibilities on the business side from 1999 to 2008 included strategic marketing; community relations and the Tribune’s philanthropy; direction of the company’s developing businesses, including CLTV News, Hoy, Chicagoland Publishing Co., and RedEye; events; research; readership growth; and cross-company project management. He also led the teams that acquired Chicago Magazine and the Printers Row Book Fair. His plan for a Tribune Web site that used death notices and obituaries to create a range of new services and information products ultimately grew into Legacy.com, which remains the leading aggregator of this content with nearly 20 million unique visitors per month.
In 2006 Youngman represented Tribune Co. on an industry-wide task force, “Newspaper Next,” convened by the American Press Institute with the goal of unearthing new business models for the industry. In 2008, he envisioned and helped create a social media strategy that increased traffic to chicagotribune.com by 10% within three months. During that year he also oversaw the launches of two print/online efforts focused on user-generated content: the hyperlocal news and advertising service Triblocal, and TheMash, a collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools.
Youngman’s blog, “The next miracle,” can be found at owenyoungman.com, the personal website he launched in 1994.
Professional and Civic Organizations, Board Memberships
American Society of News Editors
Online News Association
Newspaper Association of America New Media Federation
National Executive Board, Evangelical Covenant Church
Board of Trustees, North Park University
Board of Directors, Swedish Covenant Hospital
Board of Directors, Legacy.com Inc.
Board of Directors, Solti Foundation U.S.
Governing Member, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Awards / Professional Organizations
Inland Press Association Innovation Award, 1995
Tribune Co. Values Award, 1995
North Suburban Library System Partnership Award, 1996
Best Online Newspaper (chicago.tribune.com), both Newspaper Association of America “Edgie” and Editor & Publisher magazine “EPpy,” 1997
Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, North Park University, 2005
Ashtabula (Ohio) High School Alumni Hall of Fame, 2005
Metropolitan Family Services Leading Voice award, 2007
Publications / Presentations
“Lessons from My Worldwide Classroom,” presentation to the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, February 2014
“To Measure a MOOC’s Value, Just Ask Students,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2013
"How Two-Thirds of My Students Showed Up, But Half of Them Passed,” Quartz and TheAtlantics.com, November 2013
“Assessing Student Achievement at Scale,” presentation to the Northwestern Provost’s Learning, Teaching and Assessment Forum, October 2013
“Massive Open Online Courses, A First Report Card,” The Guardian, October 2013
"The Makes Me Smarter Experience," chapter in "Medill on Media Engagement," published 2011
"The Case for Relaxing Cross-Ownership Laws," billmoyers.com, December 2012
"Through a Glass, Darkly” – Address to the first class of McCormick Tribune Foundation Scholars, April 7, 2006
“Bloggers’ dilemma: Speed vs. accuracy,” Chicago Tribune op-ed page, Nov. 5, 2004
“Reflections on Web measurement,” NAA Research journal, October 2002
“Sticky hubs, traveling portals, and the end of pushiness,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 16, 1998
“You won’t be alone: Technology and the Business Environment,” seminar, Oct. 14, 1994
[Many of these articles are available at owenyoungman.com]