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

Net loss at the Globe

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Boston Globe is en route to its first unprofitable year in a long time. It’s the same old story — circulation is plummeting; Web readership is skyrocketing; but online advertising revenues aren’t nearly enough to offset the decline in print ads.

The Journal story adds perspective to last week’s news that Globe management doesn’t want the union to share in the growth of online revenues. The Boston Herald today carries a story that the Newspaper Guild has rejected the proposed contract.

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  1. Anonymous

    I believe there’s been a noticable diminshment of quality at the Globe over the last several years (especially in areas like arts, local news and columnists; and also less original reporting and more wire/syndicated items), but this rarely gets mentioned when discussing there circulation woes.

  2. Anonymous

    The Globe made a major strategic error by overpricing home delivery. $7.75 a week is one of the highest rates in the U.S., and while the Globe is good, it’s not that good. Most major newspapers are closer to $5 a week for home delivery. The Globe charges 40% more than if you buy it at the store, which is a great way to take your most loyal customers and turn them into occasional readers. Sure, you can get a half-price deal that goes on forever, but this requires calling them regularly and threatening to cancel. Hardly a good business model.

  3. Anonymous

    The problem with the Globe is that its an affiliate of a public company operating on a quarter to quarter basis. Best case scenerio: The Globe goes private and dares to cover the national news in a way that the New York Times dares not. The e-voting scandal and the 9-11 coverup are the two biggest stories of our time (only 16 percent of the American public now believes that the Bush Administration is telling the truth about 9-11, according to the latest mainstream polls). It would be great to see a major newspaper do something other than ignore them completely. It would also drive enormous traffic to the Globe’s website from around the country and the world. The Globe has shown that it has guts and tenacity on some national stories. Imagine multiplying that ten or twenty-fold. They would leave the times in the dust on the news that really matters. George Soros, what do you say?

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 9:35 — There’s a very simple reason that your perception of declining quality at the Globe rarely gets mentioned when discussing the paper’s circulation woes: readership is not dropping off. Instead, it’s moving to the Web. If large numbers of people agreed with you about the Globe’s quality, then declining circulation would not be offset by rising Web readership.

  5. Anonymous

    Are we surprised? The Globe is a disappointing mediocrity, at best. And the non-Globe content on is CRAP. It is one thing to acknowledge the changing economic realities for print and online media. But if the product sucks, what’s the point of having that discussion?

  6. Mike from Norwell

    I’ll second the premium paid for delivery rates. I’m on the South Shore (where everyone has to get up early) and finally went to Saturday /Sunday delivery only as the paper during the week never arrived before I left. For that I pay a $1.10 premium per week over picking it up at anyone of 10 different Dunkin Donuts w/in 4 miles of my house;<). Why such a price differential? Most subscriptions run at cost or below cover price.Also, the WSJ does point out the Federated consolidation of stores. Before, you had Filene’s, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and to a lesser extent Lord & Taylor advertising incessantly in the newspaper. Now these are controlled by one entity, and in the case of Filene’s/Macy’s, one brand name disappeared entirely. Not good for advertising revenue for sure.

  7. Anonymous

    Dan, how do you define “online readership”? Pointing and clicking? Navigating there from another site to quickly peruse the Sports section? Because I don’t think those are the same as *reading the paper.*

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:07 — Your question could be the subject of a book, or books. You are right, of course, but how many people who get the paper delivered really sit down and spend 30 to 60 minutes with it every day? Very few, I’ll venture.In the print world, casual readers are subsidizing serious readers. Advertisers don’t know whether readers are skimming the front page, looking at the sports section and ignoring everything else.Online, of course, everything is infinitely measurable, which is good for advertisers and bad for news organizations. Suddenly, the business side knows exactly how unprofitable it is to cover, say, the Boston school system.

  9. Anonymous

    Dan, my point exactly! I want a paper that I will *want* to sit and read extensively. I haven’t gotten that from the Globe in 15 years or more.When I’m away from a computer and can obtain them, I do exactly that with the New York Times and the Washington Post.

  10. PWA

    I agree that the quality of the Globe’s coverage has got to be considered as a factor. The Globe continues to do some excellent reporting, but overall I find myself spending less time with the paper — and enjoying that time less — than I did a few years ago. The news pages are stale and predictable and the writing is uneven. Arts coverage is tone deaf. What is Sidekick and why should I even open it? I, too, visit the website but it’s usually to check breaking news or search for something — not the sort of deep reading of the paper that I once enjoyed doing and now don’t so much. I think the Globe has lowered its ambitions and readers know it. The WSJ pointed out broadband Internet access, but here’s something else about having an affluent and well-educated readership: They know when you’re mailing it in.

  11. twallack

    I actually like Sidekick. It’s a pretty handy, accessible guide to entertainment. (The Globe has had success for years publishing an entertainment tab on Thursdays. It’s great to see them extend that concept to the rest of the weekend.) But I understand change is hard for newspaper readers, many of whom are getting up in years.

  12. Anonymous

    Twallack – Please be assured, it is only out of respect for Dan Kennedy that I don’t totally unload on your here. “Up in years”? I’m 40. Oh, and Sidekick is for children under 12.

  13. Anonymous

    Dan, with all due respect I think you underestimate the decline in the product’s quality as a factor in reader disenchantment with the Globe.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 3:44 — I feel like I’ve said this 50 times, but let me go for 51. In some respects, I don’t think the Globe is the paper it used to be, either. So I agree with many of you. But it’s simply a fact that the Globe isn’t losing readers, or at least not as many readers as the print-circulation slide would suggest. Instead, they’re going to the Web.

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