Tag Archives: Mike Sheehan

The Globe’s Doug Most moves to the business side

Doug Most. Photo via DougMost.com.

Doug Most. Photo via DougMost.com.

Doug Most, The Boston Globe’s deputy managing editor for special sections and new initiatives, is moving to a job in the front office, where he will be director of growth initiatives.

According to a memo to the staff by Globe editor Brian McGrory, Most will work on projects ranging from special sections to seeking sponsorships and helping with the paper’s native-advertising efforts. He’ll work alongside CEO Mike Sheehan and chief growth officer Tim Marken.

Most is the author of “The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway.”

Given the recent round of buyouts and layoffs, it’s clear that the Globe’s efforts to stem the revenue decline have been insufficient, as they have been across the newspaper business as a whole. So best wishes to Most. He’s got his work cut out for him.

The full text of McGrory’s memo follows:

Mike Sheehan called me a few weeks ago with a rather direct request: Give me Doug Most.

It made an unusual amount of sense. Since Doug took the job of deputy managing editor for special sections and new initiatives in January 2014, and even before that, he’s done spectacular work matching our journalism with advertising opportunities. Some for instances: Doug conceived and then executed a magazine special section on the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute; he conjured up and oversaw a magazine section on Angell Memorial Hospital; he devised and ran the summertime Cape Cod sections for two years running; he oversaw special magazines or sections on the University of Massachusetts, MIT, and the Boston Children’s Museum. Doug could basically fund his own small newsroom with the proceeds — and as important, he provided the reader with often fascinating journalism, some of our most widely read online.

So the question became whether it would be better for the advertising department to have someone in the newsroom to connect our missions, as Doug already did, or whether it would be better for the newsroom to have someone work in advertising to press our cause and preserve our values. In the end, the latter seems to be the best option in terms of opening up new possibilities and opportunities, so Doug will be leaving the Globe newsroom next week to take a position in the front office with the loose title of director of growth initiatives.

This is a big deal move, certainly for Doug, but really for the entire Globe. Among Doug’s many talents, he has an innate understanding of our readers, a restless mind, and a fundamental drive to creatively wring revenue from journalism. This new position will have him, as ever, thinking both editorially and commercially. He will at times be focusing on projects as straightforward as a special section, but the job could also range to a ground-breaking initiatives to help grow our audience reach. He’ll be given the freedom to seek sponsorship opportunities and to have a hand in native advertising.

Doug will work especially closely with Tim Marken, the chief growth officer, Mike Sheehan, the CEO, and me — and by me, I mean us. Doug will remain a regular presence in the newsroom, welcome in all corners. And make no mistake, he will be seeking out your new and innovative ideas and pressing you to collaborate on his — ideas that will help fund the vital journalism that is produced by this organization.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of Doug’s unique qualifications, so just some highlights. Doug arrived here in 2003 with orders to revamp the Sunday Magazine, working closely with advertising, marketing, circulation, and production. Mission accomplished, in 2009, Doug stepped into the newly enhanced job of deputy managing editor/features, overseeing Living, Arts, Travel, and the magazine. He took his current job overseeing new initiatives in January 2014. Along the way, he also launched the hugely successful Sunday Address section, played a key contributing role in the stunning, premium Sunday magazines, and helped straighten the ship at boston.com when they hit some choppy seas last winter. Just a week ago, Doug created the special Head of the Charles section, sponsored by Capital One — another example of advertisers aggressively searching for unique and creative initiatives they can sponsor. This also helps explain why Mike and Tim are aggressively seeking to have Doug join their team.

There’s no need to do a formal sendoff for Doug, in that he’s not going anywhere far; in fact, you’ll still see him around all the time. He’ll start in his new position in the middle of the week. Please take a moment to thank Doug for all he’s done and wish him well on what’s to come.


The Globe’s David Skok takes on more responsibilities

The Boston Globe’s David Skok is putting on yet another hat. According to Benjamin Mullin of Poynter, Skok, the Globe’s managing editor for digital and general manager of BostonGlobe.com, has been named Boston Globe Media Partners’ vice president for digital.

Among other things, Skok will be in charge of the company’s troubled Boston.com site, which in the past few weeks has seen a dozen layoffs as well as changes at the general manager’s and editor’s positions.

The announcement is well-timed given that the company seems determined to right the Boston.com ship. Globe Media chief executive Mike Sheehan last week told the Globe that a new direction for the site would be set over the next two to three months.

New general manager named at Boston.com

Eleanor Cleverly (via Twitter)

Eleanor Cleverly (via Twitter)

Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb is leaving to take a job at DraftKings, according to an email sent to the staff from Mike Sheehan, CEO of Boston Globe Media Partners. He will be replaced by Eleanor Cleverly, currently the company’s executive director of digital strategy and operations. A copy of Sheehan’s announcement wafted in on the breeze a little while ago, and I present it below in full.

I first met Corey Gottlieb about a month after he graduated from Amherst College, when he joined the ad agency world on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder as an assistant account executive. I was immediately impressed not only with his maturity, his creativity, and his intellect, but also his work ethic. Clearly, he was going to climb the career ladder by working, not by talking.

The following year, he came to my office and told me he had been offered a job as Director of Product Development at Major League Baseball Advanced Media. For someone that young who grew up in Brookline playing baseball and devoted to the Red Sox, it was a dream job. I countered with nothing but a handshake, my best wishes, and a plea to stay in touch.

Corey spent four years at MLBAM, and then went back to school for his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. As he was finishing up there, Andrew Perlmutter brought him in to discuss a role within BGMP, and he joined us as General Manager of Digital Marketplaces and was subsequently promoted to General Manager of Boston.com, leading its transition into a discreet digital property separate from the Globe. While that separation caused its fair share of anxiety, it has resulted in BostonGlobe.com having the third highest number of paid digital subscribers in the country, behind the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. From a business standpoint, there is no greater priority than producing quality journalism for which readers are willing to pay and with which advertisers are happy to be associated.

A few weeks ago, in a moment of deja vu, Corey came into my office and told me he had been offered a job as VP, Content at DraftKings. It’s a terrific opportunity, getting in on the ground floor of a fast-growing, Boston-based startup in the sports space. My counter was no different than the one before; I know I speak for everyone when I thank Corey for all he’s done and wish him nothing but success in his new endeavor.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look too long or too far for Corey’s successor — the first name that rolled of the tongues of Andrew, Corey, and David Skok was Eleanor Cleverly. And I couldn’t have agreed with them more. I’m pleased to announce Eleanor’s promotion to General Manager, Boston.com.

Since joining BGMP, Eleanor has served as Director of Content and General Manager of Digital Marketplaces, Interim Editor of Boston.com, and Executive Director of Digital Strategy overseeing Social Media. Eleanor joined BGMP from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where she worked for the Center of Public Leadership. She also served as Assistant Director of the Harmony Institute where she conducted research for partners including Free Press, The Ford Foundation, and MTV. In 2009, she co-authored Net Neutrality for the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet.

Earlier in her career, Eleanor was Social Media Director for MEC, a media agency under the WPP umbrella where she oversaw strategy and media buying for IKEA, Citibank, and Colgate-Palmolive.

Eleanor not only has the resume to be successful leading Boston.com into the future, she has the leadership skills as well — she is universally admired and respected throughout the building. I couldn’t be more excited to have her leading Boston.com and I can guarantee she’ll continue to evolve it into a relevant, interesting property within the BGMP portfolio.

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.

Here’s an idea for how to fix Boston.com

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

I have an idea for how to fix Boston.com, whose executives on Wednesday found themselves apologizing yet again — this time for some juvenile humor about House Speaker John Boehner’s alleged drinking problem following a death threat against him.

The screw-up has gotten widespread coverage from, among others, Politico, the Boston Herald (where the story landed on page one) and The Boston Globe.

First, some context on why John Henry and company find themselves in this situation.

When Boston Globe Media Partners decided to remove all Globe content from its free Boston.com site, a strategy that Justin Ellis explained at the Nieman Journalism Lab last April, they created a difficult challenge. Boston.com was one of the first and most successful newspaper websites, and had spent most of its existence primarily as a place where you could read the Globe for free. The challenge was to create a compelling news site without running anything from the Globe — and, at least based on what I’ve seen, to do it on the cheap.

The route that Boston.com has taken is a lot of aggregation, a lot of attitude and a lot of viral content — such as the phenomenon it had on its hands in December with Harvard Business School professor (and lawyer) Ben Edelman, who was revealed to have sent a series of legalistic, threatening emails to a Chinese restaurant owner because he’d been overcharged by $4 when he placed an online order.

The story went sour after the site published and then pulled a post falsely claiming that Edelman had sent a racist email. It then turned out that deputy editor Hilary Sargent, the lead reporter on all things Edelman, was selling T-shirts online making fun of him, which led to her suspension. (My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, a WGBH News contributor, recently wrote a good summing-up of the Edelman affair, with links, for Boston magazine. We also talked about it on “Beat the Press.”)

It hasn’t helped that Boston.com has been without a top editor for most of its reincarnated existence. Globe Media chief executive Mike Sheehan told his own paper Wednesday that he hoped to have an editor in place soon, though he didn’t specify a timetable.

The deeper problem, though, is that Boston.com has a fundamentally different mission — maybe even an impossible mission — compared to the Globe’s other online verticals.

Both Crux, which covers the Catholic Church, and BetaBoston, which follows the local innovation economy, are free to excel and be the best that they can be. Stories that have broad appeal can be picked up and run in the Globe.

Boston.com, by contrast, is hampered by being a general news site that in some respects overlaps with the Globe but can’t really be allowed to compete in any serious way. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, the Globe — and news organizations around the world — picked up on the Edelman story, an entertaining morality tale about a hardworking restaurateur being harassed by an arrogant Harvard professor. And Globe editor Brian McGrory told Justin Ellis he expected to “compete like crazy” with Boston.com.

In the main, though, Boston.com has suffered by what we might think of as an imperfectly applied example of Clay Christensen’s disruption theory — by which I mean that the free Boston.com site can’t be allowed to disrupt the Globe’s business model, which is based on paid print and digital subscriptions as well as advertising. (Henry is known to be an aficionado of Christensen’s work. I wrote in some depth about disruption theory and journalism last summer for Medium.)

I disagree with critics who say Henry ought to shut down Boston.com (it still has great value, built up over nearly 20 years) or sell it (and let the Herald or another competitor grab it?). So what do I think the solution might be?

How about a first-rate arts-and-entertainment site with a truly comprehensive, searchable database of listings? It would fill a real need, and it might attract high-quality local ads. And it would be more like Crux and BetaBoston than the current Boston.com in that it could function as a Globe vertical rather than as a separate-but-not-quite-separate-enough enterprise.

I don’t know whether such an idea would work, and I would observe that the Phoenix didn’t have a lot of success with that model during the last few years of its existence. But the Henry ownership is supposed to be all about experimentation. And the Globe has two advantages the Phoenix lacked: great technology and a huge built-in audience. Some experiments will pan out; some won’t. This one strikes me as worth trying.

Boston.com 2.0 has been troubled from the start. Maybe the right editor can fix it. But maybe it’s not too soon to be thinking about version 3.0.


Globe to replace g section, Brian McGrory tells staff

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.59.30 AMThe Boston Globe is replacing its tabloid arts-and-feature section, g, with a standalone full-size Living section later this month, according to a year-end message to the staff from editor Brian McGrory.

Most of McGrory’s message, a copy of which was sent to Media Nation by a kind soul in the Globe newsroom, is a look back at what has been a year of accomplishment for the paper. (McGrory has also written a round-up of his picks for the Globe’s most important stories of 2014.)

McGrory’s superlatives aside, it’s hard to think of a news organization this side of Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post that is expanding its coverage the way the Globe has under the ownership of John Henry. The paper has also been consistently excellent journalistically under McGrory’s watch, and, as he notes, it seems to be paying off in terms of advertising, paid circulation and a growing digital audience.

The full memo is below. But before I get to that, some other Globe news: veteran New Hampshire political reporter James Pindell is returning to the Globe as “a digital-first political reporter and playing a key role in our effort to augment our coverage of the first-in-the-nation contest,” according to an email by Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s metro editor, which someone forwarded to me.

Pindell, whom I’ve known and respected for years, worked most recently for WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, a stint that ended in a minor controversy after he asked U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown an impertinent question that turned out to be based on a mistaken premise. Pindell apologized and briefly disappeared from the air, which suggested an overreaction on management’s part. WMUR’s loss is the Globe’s gain.

Also this week, the departures at the Globe continued. Among those announcing their retirements were columnist Larry Harmon, business reporter Chris Reidy, health writer Deborah Kotz and former Spotlight and higher-education reporter Marcella Bombardieri. Harmon has been an important voice in holding city politicians accountable. I hope interim editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg finds a suitable replacement.

As for g, which was launched under New York Times Co. ownership, I doubt many will miss it. Mrs. Media Nation was a fan, but since we’re digital subscribers except on Sundays we rarely got to see what it looked like in print.

And now (drum roll, please) Brian McGrory’s year-end message to the staff.

Hey all,

Same-old, same-old in 2014, so I’ll be brief.

Wrong again.

We, meaning you, had an extraordinary year by every possible measure, certainly in terms of consistently superb journalism, but also with a driving sense of innovation in the work we produce and the way we present it. This was a landmark year for the Globe, one that I hope gives you a deep sense of pride.

Consider, for a moment, the new initiatives — Address, the absurdly readable Sunday real estate section; Capital, the Friday political section that is equal parts delightful and vital; the stand-alone Business section, which is off to a strong start and is set to improve even more; Crux, the company’s groundbreaking website dedicated to Catholicism around the world, done so well it will serve as a template for future initiatives; a restructured Spotlight Team that is set to produce signature investigative journalism with greater frequency; a stunning stand-alone Living broadsheet section to replace the current g tabloid, debuting the second week of January; the Cape Cod summer initiative; record-setting Business magazines, including the new “Game Changers;” the reintroduction of Score, as beautiful as it is insightful; artfully redesigned Sunday regional sections to the north, south, and west of Boston; and a revitalized Sunday Travel section that has become mandatory reading.

None of this came easy. All of it is vital. What made it possible is the high quality journalism upon which everything new and old is built.

Let’s be honest: 2013 was a tough year to follow in terms of accomplishment. And sitting at Columbia University in May, watching Chris Chinlund, Jen Peter, and Mike Bello accept the Pulitzer Prize on behalf of the entire staff, well, that’s a moment that I’ll forever cherish. I’m not sure Bello ever cradled any of his kids as lovingly as he did that plaque.

But you followed great work with still more great work, even amid the demands of so much new initiative. Mike Rezendes gave voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have had one with his landmark stories on the inhumane and sometimes deadly treatment of inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital — work that led to immediate, meaningful reform. Likewise in the accountability category, Spotlight produced a searing, three-part series on dangerous student housing conditions in this, the college capital of America, a project that has launched vows for widespread change. Kay Lazar and Shelley Murphy kicked the marijuana dispensary licensing process on its side through their in-depth reporting, forcing the state to scrap its deeply flawed work and start from scratch.

I’d put our 2014 narrative work up against any news organization in the country, and in that regard, I’m specifically thinking of Jenna Russell’s breathtaking account of Michael Bourne and his mother, Peggy, as they battled not only his mental health issues, but a cruelly complicated system that seems to go out of its way not to help. Include there, too, Evan Allen’s heartbreaking story of a Newton father’s quest for justice after his son’s overdose death, Maria Sacchetti’s tense, poignant look at the deaths and recovery efforts along the Mexican border, and of course, Sarah Schweitzer’s extraordinary account of a Woods Hole biologist and his lifelong attempt to save the endangered right whale, a story that was accompanied by a groundbreaking online presentation. There are more, many more.

Day to day, Metro performed an extraordinary public service by driving the heroin epidemic into the public conscience. Business blanketed the single most readable storyline of the year — the Demoulas saga — with expert coverage that drove the plot for months. Photography continued to produce the kind of thoughtful, magnificent images that made readers linger on our pages in awe.

Sports did what our Sports staff always does: It offered the best coverage for the most sophisticated audience of any paper in the nation. Washington produced the deeply reported Power Lines series, along with its consistently probing coverage of two of the most interesting officials in the country — Elizabeth Warren and John Kerry. Living/Arts gave us a record number of colorful front page offerings and, as important, solidified Sunday Arts as one of the most popular and important sections of the Globe. Perhaps that last point is inevitable when you have the all-star roster of critics and writers that we have. The Sunday magazine remains among the most vital aspects of the paper, with consistently sophisticated stories that are devoured by readers.

Our design team was ever bolder in print and online, not only with new sections and sites, but with the front page as well. Our copy editing is ever more meticulous and consistently collaborative. Our graphics are often the envy of the industry, which explains why bigger organizations keep hiring away our directors.

And our digital team has quite literally been transformative, newcomers and veterans, all of whom have banded together to produce an evolving, ambitious namesake site that is a pitch perfect platform for our collective work.

Does any of this matter? Yeah, it does, very much so.

Advertising came in better than expected this year, by no means enough to declare success, but certainly a sign of improvement. In terms of readership, there were many, many weeks in the autumn that saw a net upside in print subscriptions. There are precious few papers that see anything like that. And Bostonglobe.com saw a 34 percent increase in visits and a 26 percent increase in pageviews. We also have more digital-only subscribers than any newspaper in the country outside of the NYT and WSJ, and we’ve begun adding to that number at a strong clip in the last quarter.

I’m way too late to say, “To make a long story short,” right? But please bear with me for one final point.

We can’t let up. To sit still is to beckon defeat, what with the breakneck pace of technology advances and the irrefutable fact that competition continues to lurk all across the web. We need all your creativity, all your ambition, all your brains – all across the enterprise. We also need to take full advantage of an enviable moment. We have committed owners, the Henrys, who value quality over short-term profits, and who believe to their core that the way to make the Globe a self-sustaining enterprise is by thoughtful investment combined with unfailing discipline. We have a CEO, Mike Sheehan, who believes deeply that great journalism is good business. We have a thriving region. We have a robust staff of stellar reporters, editors, and visual journalists, many of the best in the nation. We have all the ingredients in place for profound, durable success.

I’ll set up some times in January to share plans and trade ideas for 2015. Meantime, please take more than a few moments of pride on this New Year’s Eve, for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are poised to go.

My deepest respect and appreciation to you all.


Correction: An earlier version of this post described the departures of Larry Harmon, Chris Reidy, Deborah Kotz and Marcella Bombardieri as “buyouts.” That was based on an incorrect assumption on my part. Harmon told me he was not offered a buyout, and I do not know about the other three.

Globe real-estate dealings move forward

Boston Globe staff members received the following email from chief executive office Mike Sheehan earlier today:

As you know, we’ve been working with Colliers International to market our headquarters on Morrissey Boulevard. Bids were received mid-September, and we met with three of the most favorable bidders soon thereafter. We are in the process of completing a purchase-and-sale agreement with Winstanley Enterprises. Winstanley is a Concord, MA-based, family-owned firm experienced in mixed-use development, and would make a terrific steward of this place we’ve called home since 1958. Though we’ve reached an agreement in principle with the Winstanleys, there are still details to be worked out and a period of due diligence, so this is far from a “done deal.” But we wanted to inform you of the direction we’re heading.

Speaking of the direction we’re heading, we’re also working with Colliers to evaluate proposals from potential new sites for our headquarters and production. We have many exciting options in a number of locations, so it’s anyone’s guess — mine included — where we ultimately move. We will update you as we get closer to making a final decision. We’re looking to move sometime in late 2016/early 2017, so it won’t be long before we have a much clearer picture of our future.