Tag Archives: Boston Globe

The Globe ratchets up its native advertising efforts

The Boston Globe is joining other news organizations, including The New York Times, in pursuing native advertising — content that consists of editorial-like material but is bought and paid for. And the executive who’ll be in charge of it is Andrew Gully, a former longtime Boston Herald staffer who rose to managing editor for news in the late 1990s. He left the Herald and went into public relations about a dozen years ago.

Romenesko has the memo from Boston Globe Media Partners chief executive Mike Sheehan, who writes that his goal was to hire “someone trained as a journalist who at some point sold his or her soul and made the glorious leap over to The Dark Side — marketing communications.”

Gully, whose title will be director of sponsored content, is a smart guy who during his Herald days was an aggressive newsman. Sheehan says such content “will play a very important part of our growth” and will appear across “all our properties.”

Some native advertising already appears at Globe Media sites — such as the one below, currently on Boston.com. In addition to the tagline reading “SPONSORED BY REAL Estate Talk Boston,” you can click on the little question mark in the upper right and get a fuller disclosure.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.45.39 AM

Native advertising has become a growth industry because digital advertising has proved disappointing for news organizations. Standard online ads — especially those served up by off-site servers such as Google — are so ubiquitous that their value keeps dropping.

At the same time, native ads are controversial because, when they’re not presented or labeled properly, they can be confused with editorial content. But though they’re often talked about as the mutant spawn of the Internet, there’s nothing new about them. People my age can remember special sections in Time magazine on the glories of various third-world hellholes; you’d do a double-take, then see the disclaimer that the section was paid for by said hellhole.

For many years, so-called advertorials by Mobil were published on the op-ed page of The New York Times — more than 800 of them between 1985 and 2000, according to this analysis.

Ironically, on the same day that Sheehan announced Gully’s appointment, the American Society of Magazine Editors released a set of guidelines for native advertising. Benjamin Mullin reports at Poynter Online that the guidelines call for such content to be “clearly labeled as advertising by the use of terms such as ‘Sponsor Content’ or ‘Paid Post’ and visually distinguished from editorial content and that collections of sponsored links should be clearly labeled as advertising and visually separated from editorial content.”

That seems like solid advice. And it’s a standard we can all use as a measuring stick once native advertising starts to become more visible on the Globe’s various websites.

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Newly named Globe M.E. Skok discusses digital strategy


David Skok

David Skok sees his mission at The Boston Globe as helping to define the organization’s RPP — “resources, priorities and processes,” in the words of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen.

“Clay’s theory would argue that that’s what forms the culture,” Skok says.

Skok discussed the Globe’s digital strategy at an appearance earlier today at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Before he began, Shorenstein Center director Alex Jones announced that Skok, the Globe’s digital adviser, had just been named managing editor for digital — an announcement that was reported by Poynter’s Benjamin Mullin a few hours later. Skok has also been appointed general manager of BostonGlobe.com.

Christensen is the godfather of disruption theory — the idea that successful companies are vulnerable to competitors using low-cost technologies and ideas. Think of the way that personal computers brought down minicomputers and mainframes — or that once-lucrative classified ads were pretty much destroyed by Craigslist.

Skok told the Shorenstein crowd that he became attracted to disruption theory when he audited one of Christensen’s classes as a Nieman Fellow. He and Christensen later collaborated on a report about disruption and journalism called “Breaking News.” Last year I analyzed Christensen’s theories following a tough critique (flawed in my view) by Harvard historian Jill Lepore in The New Yorker.

“I sat in on Clay’s class and was immediately transfixed by some of the ideas and theories he put forward,” Skok said.

He added that though he largely agreed with the pessimism that pervaded the news business from a few years ago, since working with Christensen he has come to believe that “journalism will survive and thrive.”

How the Globe is leveraging social to cover #FITN

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A recent Pindell piece in Medium.

In his recent exhortation to accelerate the transition to digital, Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory singled out — among others — James Pindell, who’s covering the New Hampshire primary (or #FITN, as they say) as a digital-first reporter, “rapidly pushing webbier (sorry) stories that allow the site to look less like a digital reflection of that morning’s and the next morning’s print paper.”

Now Mashable has a close-up look at exactly how Pindell is accomplishing that. Jason Abbruzzese writes that Pindell has embraced a wide range of social media, including Twitter, Instagram, FacebookMedium and — shades of steam-powered presses from the 19th century — an email newsletter. (Not all of this is new. Pindell’s Twitter feed has been a must-read among political junkies for years.) Pindell’s work is gathered at a Globe site called Ground Game.

The approach has allowed Pindell to cover stories that are worth telling even if they’re not quite worthy of (or suitable for) print — such as his first-person account of covering Donald Trump and his hair during Trump’s recent foray into New Hampshire.

The idea, Abbruzzese reports, is to leverage Pindell’s coverage of across a variety of platforms in order to compete with national outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post:

“We’re putting him out there deliberately in a very focused way saying, ‘This is our guy. This is the face of our coverage,'” says David Skok, digital adviser at the Globe, who helped form their strategy of pushing content out on social platforms via a single, recognizable reporter.

The strategy also fits with the Globe’s embrace of digital verticals such as Crux, which covers “all things Catholic”; BetaBoston, which follows tech and innovation; and more that I’ve heard are in the works.

Alas, as smart a move as Ground Game may be journalistically, it’s unclear, as always, how it will make money. From the Mashable piece:

The main question dogging media organizations that want to embrace this strategy of social publishing is how it affects their bottom line. Reaching more people is great, but the benefits are quickly offset if it comes at the behest of revenue.

Skok said that Pindell’s work outside of the Globe did not have direct monetization opportunities yet, but that the broader impact would hopefully attract advertisers that want to be associated with the paper’s authoritative coverage.

The folks at the Globe deserve a lot of credit for understanding the value of pushing ahead anyway.

Baron joins McGrory in thinking digital thoughts

It’s interesting that during the same week Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory exhorted his journalists to keep pushing ahead on the digital side, Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron gave a speech on the same subject at the University of California Riverside.

Baron, who was McGrory’s predecessor as Globe editor, talked quite a bit about a discussion led by Clay Shirky at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center in 2009. As it turns out, I was there, and wrote about it at the time.

As with McGrory’s memo, Baron’s speech is worth reading in full. But here’s a taste:

If this pace of change unnerves you, there is no consolation. Things will only get faster. And for those who resist the change rather than embrace it, there will be no forbearance or forgiveness. Their destiny is to be pushed aside and forgotten. That is the brutal truth.

So journalism’s Big Move from print to digital comes with discomfort for those, like me, who grew up in this field well before the 21st Century. We just have to get over it.

We are moving from one habitat to another, from one world to another. We are leaving a home where we felt settled. Now we encounter behaviors that are unfamiliar. Our new neighbors are younger, more agile. They suffer none of our anxieties. They often speak a different language. They regard with disinterest, or disdain, where we came from, what we did before. We’re the immigrants. They’re the natives. They know this new place of ours well. We’re just learning it.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

McGrory and Baron may be the two luckiest big-city newspaper editors in the country. Both work for deep-pocketed owners who are willing to invest and take the long view. As always, it will be fascinating to see what they make of that opportunity.

Where Boston’s papers stand on death for Tsarnaev

The Boston Globe today offers some powerful arguments against executing convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Metro columnists Kevin Cullen and Yvonne Abraham weigh in, as do the paper’s editorial page, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate and retired federal judge Nancy Gertner. (Columnist Jeff Jacoby has previously written in favor of death for Tsarnaev.)

Over at the Boston Herald, the message is mixed. In favor of the death penalty are columnist Adriana Cohen and editorial-page editor Rachelle Cohen. The lead editorial calls for the death penalty as well. Columnist Joe Fitzgerald is against capital punishment for Tsarnaev. Former mayor Ray Flynn offers a maybe, writing that he’s against the death penalty but would respect the wishes of the victims’ families.

McGrory tells Globe staffers they need to think digital

If it sometimes seems like The Boston Globe is still a print-first, digital-later news organization, editor Brian McGrory agrees.

Despite success in selling digital-only subscriptions and the hiring of several digital-first journalists, McGrory wrote earlier today in a message to the staff, “too many of us — editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists — think of just print too often.”

McGrory’s renewed emphasis on the Web is good news for customers (like me) who pay for Sunday delivery of the print edition and read it online the other six days. And though McGrory doesn’t mention it, I hope the change in mentality he’s looking for is accompanied by some improvements in the Globe’s digital platforms.

The full text of McGrory’s message follows:

Hey all,

Just a heads up that, starting today, we’re moving the morning and afternoon meetings up by 30 minutes, to 10 and 3 respectively — a small change that is part of a larger effort to make us quicker and more nimble on the web.

The goal is, as mentioned before, to get everyone to think as much about our site as we do the paper. We are already in a very good place. It was this newsroom, in large part, that made boston.com the traffic monster that it is, built on the quality of Boston Globe journalism for the better part of two decades. We did it all over again a few years ago with the launch of bostonglobe.com, which already has more digital-only subscriptions than any metropolitan news organization in the country. Those subscriptions are growing at a clip of 200 to 500 a week, and page views were up in March by more than 40 percent over last year.

But we can do better – and we need to do better.

To that end, we’ve already brought in several digital-first writers, to such great effect that we’re looking to bring in several more. Evan Horowitz, Alex Speier, Steve Annear, and James Pindell have allowed us to live far more in the moment online, rapidly pushing webbier (sorry) stories that allow the site to look less like a digital reflection of that morning’s and the next morning’s print paper. Of course, virtually the whole room has been picking up the pace for years, led by the bullet-fast reflexes of Mike Bello, Martin Finucane and John Ellement in Metro.

Still, too many of us — editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists — think of just print too often. In this view, the web is something that’s extra, an additional place to post print stories. This has to change, not overnight, and not even self-consciously, but gradually and naturally over the next few months. So if all goes right, the morning news meetings will allow for more time to be devoted to what we’re planning to publish on the site through the day. The afternoon news meeting will focus not just on the print front page, but the digital homepage through the evening.

We’ll look to reposition some high-profile editing talent to give stories a front-page-quality edit not just from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., but all through the day, allowing us to post our enterprise work from morning to evening. This may involve putting a senior editor on a devoted editing day shift, and another on an evening shift, so that the front page desk is essentially a 16- or 18-hour a day operation. David Dahl will be toggling back and forth in that role this week, supporting Chris. We’ll look to put more firepower in the pre-dawn hours to get us off to a quicker start. We’ll reallocate copy-editing resources so that the site is as carefully edited as the paper. We’ll commit far earlier in the day to running enterprise stories, whether we’re sure they’ll make the next morning’s front page or not, in the name of keeping the site fresh and lively.

All of this is predicated on each and every one of us breaking free of the rhythms that have been prevalent in this newsroom and our industry for the longer part of forever. The idea is to be part of the constant conversation that is taking place on the web – and in fact, to drive it.

Again, we’re already doing a great deal of this. Reporters are filing breaking stories immediately and effectively. We’re putting enterprise work on the site in the evening. We’re rolling out magazine stories and Sunday features through the week. And we’ve even splashed some Sunday projects on Thursdays and Fridays, with great success. More, please.

Allow me a moment here to say what this doesn’t mean. First and foremost, it doesn’t mean that we should work longer days. In fact, let’s demand the opposite. If we’re starting earlier, we’re finishing earlier. True success means that we’re getting rid of the tidal wave of copy from 5 to 8 p.m. My own belief is that far too many of us spend too much time in this building, to the detriment of ourselves, our families, and our work. Great journalism emanates from real life. Real life is that thing you see when you’re not under the glow of fluorescent lights on Morrissey Boulevard. One idea worth exploring is to stagger some shifts in the name of a steady flow of copy, with some editors and reporters working early and others coming in later. We’ll look at options in the coming weeks.

It doesn’t mean that we’re going to ignore the print paper. Lord knows, people dig deep for their subscription, and we will give them everything they pay for, including something fresh most every day. It doesn’t mean we’ll put out a mediocre paper on Mondays because we’ve spent all our enterprise through the prior week. In fact, editors will be encouraged to tuck stories away for this purpose.

In sum and in short, what we’re looking for is an even fuller, more vibrant, ever-knowing site for the hundreds of thousands of people who turn to our work every day. We’ll be more present in the social space. We’ll be even more robust with newsletters. We’ll let data inform our decisions, though never dictate them. And yes, we’ll continue to put out a world-class newspaper every morning.

I’ll keep you updated as more structural changes get made. More important, I’m eager to hear your ideas.


Banksters demand that Senate Democrats silence Warren

This is really a remarkable story. In today’s Boston Globe, Annie Linskey reports that banksters from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have threatened to withhold payoffs (let’s not be too squeamish about what we call these payments) to Senate Democrats unless they can get Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown to shut up.

Warren has asked her supporters to raise $30,000 to make up the difference.

As the Globe notes, the story was first reported by Emily Flitter of Reuters, who adds the detail that Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are part of the cabal. Think about that the next time you visit the ATM.

More: Nice commentary by Charlie Pierce.