By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

More on the Globe’s woes

Jay Fitzgerald reports in today’s Boston Herald that New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is paying a visit to his company’s troubled Boston Globe subsidiary next week. Globe spokesman Al Larkin describes the visit as routine, but Fitzgerald’s sources tell him that the Globe may be preparing for another round of job reductions, including those of some high-ranking managers.

And please check out the comments to my Monday post on the Globe’s ongoing revenue woes. I’ve been expanding on my argument that you can’t talk about declining circulation unless you also take into account the fact that Web readership of the Globe (and other papers) is soaring. That doesn’t mean the Globe couldn’t be better — it just means that the readership situation isn’t as dire as the plummeting print circulation figures would indicate.

That said, one Media Nation reader yesterday reminded me of something I haven’t given enough (or any) attention to: the fact that some proportion of people who read the Globe online are also subscribers to the print edition. In my mind, I’ve been counting those people twice. No question that that fuzzy math undercuts my argument to some degree.


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14 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of the Globe circulation isat a promotional rate. I just subscribedto the Sunday Globe for $0.88/wk for the next 28 weeks.

  2. Anonymous

    Another problem in counting on-line readers is that hits go up when then Red Sox and other other Boston teams are playing, because boston.com tracks those games as they happen. In addition, I imagine that New England transplants (to other places) hit that site a lot also and drive up total hits. Having said that, I think Dan’s hypothesis is more or less accurate, but we just can’t prove it. I don’t know if NY TimesCo has more data about what sections are hit more, and where the persons are that hit, and what time of day the hits occur.

  3. Wes

    I too subscribe to the Sunday Globe at a greatly reduced rate. Personal experience shows that many friends and family living around the world drop in to the Globe website, but also to the Cape Cod Times, and Cape Codder more often for conversational references than any desire to read local/national news. Those newspapers still remain the usual suspects.Dan puts much faith in the Inet which this user doesn’t, seeing it as nothing more than a quieter Speaker’s Corner.

  4. neil

    Anon 9:55 I agree–I think DK’s hypothesis is right too, but it’s impossible to say to what extent from out here, so it can only remain surmise. You can’t demonstrate anything from the outside using the junk numbers from the media kit. The NYT’s database dept on the other hand, unless they’re slackers, collect every click on Boston.com and can analyze the results in lots of interesting ways such as uptick during sport events, time spent on each page etc. And presuming they can see approximately (since you can register anonymously) overlap with print subscribers, they’d be able to track print cancellations vs online readers for example, and note, of those also registered at Boston.com, whether they started clicking on more real content after they cancelled. That would demonstrate what DK is suggesting. That kind of analysis will obviously reveal such trends, but they have no reason to reveal such information publicly. Then there are potential new print readers who found Boston.com so why would they bother to subscribe to print. That’s some non-zero number too but you can’t track that either.I have questions about the data anyway. You can’t get much further in Boston.com than clicking on the weather without registering. Yet the total number of registered users is 600K, and 500Kunique/day hit the site? That means either that 5/6ths of registered users look at the site every day, which seems way too high, or that many unregistered users visit the site every day, and if all they can do is see the weather, that also seems way too high. Smells fishy to me.That more people don’t dump print and just read Boston.com only a matter of inertia or failure to notice? It would be nice for readers, and maybe very bad for the Globe, if somebody published a list of what exactly is available in the print edition that is not available in the free online version. Now I’m wondering why I am still subscribed to the print!

  5. Aaron Read

    FWIW, I typically read the Globe online every weekday…although I usually skim the links and click only what interests me. Several years ago, my fiance used to get a paper subscription but she was tired of some SOB who stole it every morning off her front porch (before we moved in with each other) and she gave up. Now the only Globe she usually reads is the Sunday edition, typically bought at CVS so we can read it together over brunch at home or the local diner.But I’m a real news junkie, too…I typically read about 15-20 blogs and listserv archives daily, plus the Globe. Sometimes the Herald, too…and if I take the T into work in the morning, I’ll usually read the Metro (blech!) or the Phoenix on the days the new issue arrives at my T stop.

  6. Mark

    I’ll add to the discussion by pointing out that many of the ads on Boston.com are likely cost-per-click. That means that the site only gains revenue if a reader clicks an ad (some also may pay based on leads generated). So, the larger issue is that even a substantial audience on Boston.com would not make up for the ROP ad revenue they’re losing on the print side of the house.

  7. mike_b1

    anon 9:55:I would be certain that every major media site has extensive data on what the quantity of traffic, where they visit, how long they linger (stickiness), the domains of the users, where they came to the site from and where they leave to, etc. That type of software is readily available — and cheap.

  8. mark

    But most advertisers don’t want to pay for eyeballs anymore–that went the way of the Model T with the NASDAQ crash in 2000-2001. They do have the data you mention–in spades, in fact. But they usually get paid by the click. The chances of getting a click go up with increased traffic, but it’s not the same as getting paid just because you have a lot of eyeballs.

  9. Anonymous

    Hey Dan, are you going to join this discussion, since it is your hypothesis being discussed? We need more info than “everyone thinks” that newspaper web sites are reducing newspaper circulation. Someone needs to analyze hard data to prove or disprove this.Thanks Neil.Anon 9:55

  10. Dan Kennedy

    If you can posit a theory, no matter how far-fetched, as to how newspaper Web sites might not be affecting print circulation, then I’ll try to see if I can come up with something more. Until then …

  11. mike_b1

    mark, perhaps you haven’t seen the latest version of popup ads on boston.com (and many other sites). Like popups, the reader must watch them for a short period of time or click on the Exit button to cancel it. Either way, they are impossible to ignore (and as far as I know, there isn’t a blocker for them yet). Such ads wouldn’t be of interest to media sites if clicks were the only method for generating revenue.

  12. Gary McGath

    Bypassing the Globe’s registration requirement is extremely easy, so there could actually be some undercounting of online readership.

  13. Anonymous

    Gary – care to elaborate?

  14. Neil

    Registration is free and anonymous anyway so why bother to bypass it? I just registered with a different email address. One of the questions was how much money do you make. The first pick is $150K or more. I bet plenty of people pick that simply because it’s the first choice on the list. That might explain that bogus-sounding claim in the media kit about 30% making more than $100K/yr. Since registration’s anonymous, the stats they collect at reg time are going to be pretty unreliable and it’s silly for them to make claims about the demographics of the registered users based on them.I decided to be a female born in 1966 in Import/Export/Trade, making >$150K, this time.

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