Zekas: "I'm Sabrina" of CribChatter fame

At Old Orchard

Joe Zekas was taking a smoke break when the mail arrived at the YoChicago office Wednesday afternoon. I typically don’t snoop around his office, but as I dropped off an envelope on his desk, I couldn’t help but notice what he had left on his computer screen: the admin interface for the popular CribChatter blog.

Given Joe’s often tempestuous relationship with CribChatter and its readers, I felt he had some explaining to do, so I immediately confronted him upon his return. He was visibly shaken by my discovery and asked for some time to deliver a thorough response to our staff in writing. I received his statement via e-mail late last night.


I knew this was going to come out sooner or later. Yes, I am “Sabrina.”

Soon after we launched YoChicago, I was getting nauseated by some of our commenters’ foul language, the snarking about people’s personal habits and decorating tastes, and the stunning ignorance that many of them insisted on shouting out about real estate.

Experience told me that these commenters would stunt YoChicago’s growth by driving away a more intelligent audience. I also knew that some of those people would eventually be home buyers, and that others found them entertaining or even agreed with their anti-industry attitude. Our clients needed to reach that audience too.

We needed a way to reach the people who were nervous about buying and wanted to rent for a few years, knowing they’d eventually ripen into buyers.

CribChatter seemed an elegant solution: a place to which I could banish the crazies while still reaching the audience they appealed to for our advertisers. I adopted the pen name “Sabrina,” and the rest is history.

As long as I’m fessing up, I might as well disclose that I also created the personas for most of the regulars at CribChatter – the foul-mouthed guy who pretends to be a lawyer, the unremitting hater who bought in a high-rise, the pompous basement-dweller who spouts deep economic wisdom. I wrote their entries myself for a while but gradually outsourced most of them to Bangalore as traffic in CribChatter’s comments sections became too much to keep up with. I did, however, maintain the “Sabrina” account at all times.

I’m comfortable revealing this now, because I’m closing later today on a sale of CribChatter to a local apartment rental service. The new buyer plans to continue using the “Sabrina” name and persona. And no, I’m not worried that this disclosure will lose CribChatter any of its audience – they all say they don’t read YoChicago and won’t notice any change.

I hope this clears things up, once and for all. Forgive me for not being forthright with you or our readers.

Forever Yo’s,

Joe Zekas

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