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

A free Herald?

The plunge in Metro Boston’s circulation remains a mystery, with the biggest mystery being whether there really was a plunge or just a change in accounting. (Like, the auditors discovered 50,000 copies in a Dumpster somewhere?)

Boston Herald editor Kevin Convey suggests a new slogan to Boston Magazine’s Amy Derjue: “Metro: We Can’t Even Give It Away.” More substantively, Convey says, “If economics were ever to permit us to go free we would give away one hell of a lot more papers than the Metro has managed to do during its lifetime.” (Via Adam Reilly.)

Maybe, maybe not. It all comes down to those economics. If I could choose between a free Herald as it is today and a free Metro, there’d be no contest — I’d grab a Herald every time. Trouble is, it’s highly unlikely that you could turn the Herald into a free paper without laying off most of the staff, cutting way back on pages and — yes — turning it into something very much like Metro. Or BostonNOW.

Unless — and here’s the big unless — the Herald could find a way to make the Web pay, and then publish a small, free paper as a supplement to the online edition. But we’re probably a long way from that becoming realistic.

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  1. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    What is really amazing is that Convey is deigning to respond as if a free daily was competition and compounds the indignity by speculating, perhaps wistfully, about what HIS paper could do if it was given away for free.

  2. Peter Porcupine

    DK – you know who DOES have a profitable web site with a minor publication? Politico.Sometime, you should check into their business model.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I’m not surprised, but what’s the size of the staff? Pretty tiny, I’d guess. And a publication targeted for a highly educated, affluent niche audience. Still, though, right on target — quality journalism done at a profit.

  4. Anonymous

    The Herald shouldn’t talk, their circulation isn’t anything to be proud of. At least the Metro and BostonNow, have products commensurate with their price, and they’re not asking us to spend good money to buy them.

  5. Charles Foster Kane

    It wasn’t so long ago that the Herald was giving away hundreds, if not thousands, of leftover copies to evening rush hour commuters entering South Station. Does anyone know if this is still the case?

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, this comment sort of follows your latest “Internet killing the newspapers” discussion.Many of us have thought the Herald’s demise was imminent, for years. They’ve had many reporters depart, lost advertising revenue and circulation, and clearly have a WORSE product in every respect than they did 10 years ago. The Globe is still better, and they have competition from FREE newspapers. And yet, the Herald still stands. So, is the demise of the Herald still imminent, or does the paper product have a lot of life in it, despite everything?

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 7:58: I’m probably the wrong guy to ask, because I’ve never thought the Herald’s demise was imminent. There have been times when I’ve been disappointed in the direction it’s taken, and no, it certainly isn’t the paper it was 10 years ago. But I would imagine that it can shrink to the point at which it’s small enough to break even. It may be there now.

  8. Anonymous

    You know whenever I pick up the Phoenix (which isn’t often) I am amazed that they can put out this paper for free! I’ve wondered to myself if the business model could work for the Herald too. I mean, the Herald’s pages have been getting slimmer and slimmer!) It’s the incredible vanishing newspaper. I take it to the bathroom, and finish the paper before I’m done! I think if the Metro and BonstoNow are going to be available on the T….the Herald may HAVE TO go that route….and do a better job of it than Bostonow and Metro. Adding better web presence and buying a radio station would shore up some of the weak beams…

  9. Anonymous

    Matt Drudge gets $22,000 per day for the top ad spot at his site and a litle over $2K per day for each of the other ads on his site. If he can make money, why can’t the Herald or Globe?

  10. Anonymous

    Because The Herald and The Globe don’t inflate their site stats with bogus auto-refresh rates? Because he hotlinks to images with no attribution (i.e. copyright infringement and bandwidth theft)?Because he invests nothing in actual reporting, which is far more expensive than ‘aggregation journalism,’ a silly term many bloggers use to justify their posturing?Because the public is dumb enough to read it?

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:37: How can you talk about how much money Drudge makes without mentioning his minimal expenses? The Globe and the Herald make lots of money from the Web, but they spend it all and then some on journalism.

  12. Jed Leland

    Charles Foster Kane is correct – the Herald was free all last summer at North and South stations. I got a chuckle out of Convey’s comment.

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