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

Herald columnists freed

When Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell sold his Community Newspaper subsidiary last month, he talked about beefing up the Herald’s online presence as part of his survival strategy. Today he takes a step in that direction, making his columnists freely accessible. Bloggers everywhere will be delighted. The Herald touts the move here.

It strikes me that Purcell had put himself in an untenable middle position. On the one hand, the Herald is an urban tabloid that depends almost entirely on newsstand sales. By giving it away online, he runs the risk that many readers will get what they want out of it in five or 10 minutes at their computers: the Inside Track, the front page, maybe a columnist or two. In fact, I argued last year that Purcell should consider getting rid of the Herald’s Web site entirely.

On the other hand, if Purcell really believes the Web can become part of his long-term strategy, it makes no sense to wall off the columnists by making them available only to his tiny number of home-delivery subscribers and to online readers willing to pay an extra fee. Even the New York Times has had only modest success with its TimesSelect program. The Herald ain’t the Times.

Overall, then, a thumb’s up. You can’t have a successful Web site if you don’t offer your most popular content. So welcome back, Peter, Margery, Howie, Wayne, Gerry and Steve. And, yes, even you, Joe.

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Actually, they don’t have to


Suing Michael Moore


  1. Anonymous

    “your account will be credited for the remainder of your subscription.” I presume they mean the credit card I used to pay with. Sure hope their bookkeeping is better at this than their “automatic” renewals. I was an original web subscriber and not once did I enjoy uninterrupted service, renewing 90 days at a time. Might have had something to do with Purcell’s “nationwide search” before naming his daughter as manager of the web edition?

  2. tony schinella

    Since I don’t live in Boston anymore, I think this is great … I can read the Herald’s columnists again. 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    Dan, how can you argue for shutting down the web site? The web represents the future of newspapers and your stance appears remarkably short-sighted, even for a paper in danger of going under.

  4. Bryan Person

    Dan, the Herald has to devote more resources to its website — not less. The paper’s survival probably depends on it. Content and advertising is moving away from print and to the web. It’s an irreversible trend that the Herald cannot possibly ignore.I have more on this in a post on my blog.

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