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

Wilpers out (or not) at BostonNOW

Well, that didn’t take long. The Herald’s “Inside Track” reports that John Wilpers is semi-out as editor of BostonNOW, the free weekday tab started by Tab founder Russel Pergament earlier this year with (I’m not making this up) Icelandic money.

Wilpers is supposedly sticking around to consult on the paper’s blogging initiatives and overall strategy, so this doesn’t sound like your classic “pack up your stuff and get out of here” move. I’ve asked Wilpers to respond, and will post if I hear from him.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    I am not sure I dislike the Icelandic connection as much you do. You probably reason that “how can a foreign island nation know enough or care enough to own a paper with a local reach here.”I say they see dollar signs and it is a good vote of confidence. They see potential where American publishers and investors see failure and disaster.There are papers that are turning a profit and a very handsome one at that. The Financial times keeps turning a very handsome profit and all their publications are doing pretty well and get this, both of their most revered publications, ie the and have been behind a subs wall, and they STILL MANAGED to be profitable.Why?Great Content.Unambiguous anaylisys and moral equivocation. Straight reporting and straight analysis.People sense BS when they see it. They sense frivoloty when they see it and BostonNOW is just that, just like Metro and other small and large publications locally.I am not sure how good of a fit was this gentleman for BostonNow. I wish I had gone to that BPL gathering both of you were present at.( I had a long post about that one that I never posted)I am sure he is a nice gentleman and a reasonable guy. I am just not sure being nice and cordial is enough for these papers to get the job done. This whole blog participaton is a flop. How could you rely on such a concept if there are no truly great blogs in the area to begin with? There are a bunch of personal blogs and some activist local blogs that do a decent job covering their town meeting or district race, but there is no great blog that has had great orginal content and analysis that breaks stories and gets mentioned in national news or get linked to by national op-eds. Blog scene in Boston is fragmented and dormant. SO that was a bust on Now’s part. Not executed well at all.So let’s do a little calculation to see why we stil have problems making sense of the Newspaper business:Lets imagine ,conservatively, a major local paper in Boston selling 400,000 50-cent copies daily 6-days-a-week and 500,000 copies in Sunday copies, $4 a copy. That amounts to $72.8 Million in hard copy sales alone, and vendors only get a couple of pennies on the dollar from sales.And let’s put their daily ad sales at ONLY $25,000 per day. (One one-page ad costs a lot more than that) that’s another 91.25M.SO someone wants to tell me you CANNOT run a world-class paper with at least $164.05 Million US dollars a year? Many papers get printed and distributed on the same press and vans. Those costs can be contained and not going to be the deal killer. You can’t pay reporters handsomely with that? YOu can’t keep a couple of critical foreign bureaus for that? It doesn’t make sense. These papers pull in a lot more than that and if you add ANY online income using mostly content already produced for the print side, that’s gravy on top. A serious online presence can be as lucrative as the print one, but not when it is underutilized like is. Its traffic dwarfs that of the Herald but it keeps declining and its revenues keep declining in the last quarters’ reporting, Dan. Despite your well-worn argument that it will supplant the previous print circ and income, it has not. There were quarters recently where NYT print declined, Globe Print declined, declined but NYTIMES grew. It is a great online newspaper site and will do even better now that the wall may be coming down, in addition to the wall on FT, Economist and maybe even WSJ. NYT and Washpo problems are more a function of its identity crisis in the last 10 years but still put out great content and reporting and their great websites show it.If you do the same calcualtion above for a national paper with a $1.50 price, circluation at 1 Million+ and $200k in daily ad sales only, you’d have more than enough to put a fantastic paper with foreign bureaus and great content. NYT income is probably around $3.5 billion including probably about $650 from New England. That is way more than enough to run a successful paper, print or online. Give me a break!We know, because that had been the case for long, not only with fantastic American papers produced before, by grandiose characters but not only that, the competition was fierce. Each major town had dozens and dozens of papers and ethnic papers and morning editions, evening editions and they still managed to put out great content. Now the internet supplants the need for overlapping saturated supply, but the content qualtiy is the reason they are just banal, save for a couple of examples like the very successful Guardian site. Actually it was confirmed recently that a huge chunk of their online readership is American and you can see they draw many American advertisers. It just tells you that people are after not only transcribed news, they want great news delivery and clear, sophisticated irreverant analysis. SO I am not surprised that Iceland or the UK see opportunity in US media. They have been making a mint for a while now and for the lack of talent, they will continue to. (Has anyone seen the expose on the Economist on the Talent Crisis a while back? going in circles here…)The difference unfortunately for BNOW is that people are not THAT stupid anymore and there won’t be a suitor anytime soon with deep desperate pockets for a remake of MetroGlobe. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me…well you get it. The chutzpah in this from trying to do it again, is beyond ironic and sad to watch. Where are the non-competes when you need them?BostonNow might have had a prayer if it had new energy and new approaches. It is no more than an also-ran.Good luck to Mr Wilpers and good luck to any media outfit trying to make it and make sense out of all of it. Business as usual is just not an option anymore.N. PS: Aspen Institute had a live feed on New Media all day today. Pinch and Dean singleton, newmark, Huffington and Keving Martin and many others at today through tomorrow. And check the groundreport links, I am not sure it is the answer or its final shape, but it is a brave effort.

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