(Crain’s) — Tribune Co. is starting a new consulting business in its digital department, allowing the newspaper company to sell its social media and Internet advertising know-how to small and mid-sized businesses.

The new business, called 435 Digital Services, will be hiring a handful of people for the effort and will redeploy existing employees to the project to create a unit of about 10 workers, says Bill Adee, the newspaper’s digital department vice-president.

Tribune has placed ads seeking new hires and hopes to install them by the end of this month, Mr. Adee says. One ad calls for a “social media guru” looking to “show off your sales skills.”

Mr. Adee says 435 Digital is one of many ways the paper is trying to develop new revenue streams for Chicago-based parent, Tribune Co., as it seeks to bolster finances before exiting bankruptcy later this year. The name of the unit incorporates the company’s 435 N. Michigan Ave. address.

“We think creating a special group dedicated to that idea is worth trying,” Mr. Adee says.

Tribune, which also owns WGN-TV/Channel 9 and radio outlets as well as other newspaper and broadcast entities outside Chicago, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 and is aiming to exit Chapter 11 proceedings in the third quarter this year. Tribune filed a reorganization plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, but the plan has yet to be approved by creditors and the judge overseeing the case.

435 Digital grew out of the paper’s Chicago Now blog network initiative. When Chicago Now began working with small and mid-sized businesses it found that many client-owners knew they needed social media advertising — such as a presence on Facebook — and understood the importance of search engine optimization to help maximize exposure on the Internet, but few knew how to execute on those needs, Mr. Adee says.

Initially, the group will survey companies to better understand their advertising needs. Some clients may advertise through the Chicago Tribune, but others may not, he says.

The Tribune unit may add more employees later, depending on the revenue it generates, Mr. Adee says.

The parent company’s ending cash balance, as reported each month to the bankruptcy court, has risen steadily in recent months. The company posted a $1.52-billion cash balance for the month ended May 23, up from $1.4 billion for the period ended Feb. 28.