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

A push to save City Weekly

Local media and political activist Ron Newman has written an open letter to the Boston Globe asking that it save the City Weekly section, currently targeted for elimination on March 22. Newman writes:

Dear Boston Globe folks,

As a resident of Somerville, I am distressed to read that you plan to discontinue the only section of the Globe that consistently covers news about our city (and our neighbor, Cambridge).

Your internal memo, published at Dan Kennedy’s Media Nation blog, says that “the suburban zones … are too important to readers to dramatically reduce.” Does this mean that the Globe no longer cares about readers who live in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline? How do you expect to keep readers and advertisers if you keep slashing away at the content that makes the Globe unique?

For over 50 years, I’ve lived in houses that received home delivery of at least one daily newspaper. But I’m seeing less and less reason to keep my Globe subscription.

To see the reaction that this decision is getting, I recommend you read the comments on these blog entries:

You still have several weeks to reconsider this bad decision. Please do so.

My own take? Probably unrealistic. But I’d certainly like to see the Globe take some steps to pump up its city coverage online.

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  1. Michael Pahre

    Here in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston, I can tell you that the elimination of City Weekly is bad for the Globe’s coverage of news in the neighborhoods.Most of the news about Allston-Brighton on a weekly basis gets covered in City Weekly — and is mostly written by freelancers these days. Only the few, really big stories (e.g., Harvard stops construction of $1 billion science complex) make it onto the City/Metro section.Oddly, several weeks ago I started to receive the Thursday metro west zone insert (including Newton but not Brighton) in my home delivery. While I have a little bit of interest in Newton’s news, it’s mostly a waste of the Globe’s money to deliver it to a neighborhood that doesn’t have news coverage in the section.So in Brighton we’re about to drift off into never-never-land… not being covered in the zone insert that’s delivered weekly to our houses, and barely covered by the daily City/Metro section.

  2. Ani

    Here’s my ignorant outsider’s question: If business advertisers aren’t running ads in print newspapers the way they used to, what are they doing, as a substitute, instead?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Ani: There are two answers to your question:1. Newspapers were incredibly reliant on classified ads, which have picked up and moved en masse to Craigslist,, etc.2. Retail ads are way down, and, before the recession, that was linked to the change in downtown business patterns. You no longer have 10 banks. You have a few. You no longer have lots of retail establishments. You have the mall.

  4. Ron Newman

    Within a 10-minute walk from Davis Square, I can pass branches of 11 different banks, plus a credit union.There’s also still a fair amount of retail in Central, Harvard, Porter, Davis, Inman, and Union squares, not to mention Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village, and Newbury and Boylston Streets. If the Globe can’t sell advertising in this zone, it’s not trying hard enough.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    DK – I’m saying this here, but it applies to many of your posts.2008 was an election year. My own experience is that political ads run cash-up-front. No payment, no ad. This may not hold true for national/state level campaigns. but legislative, county and municipal races? All are cash, and every campaign runs at least an election day $365 ‘tombstone’ asking for a vote.Imagine if THAT hadn’t been a financial boost this past year! And 2009 is NOT an election year…

  6. LFNeilson

    You can look at the ads that ran recently and imagine all kinds of money, but what you have to do is compare that to the ads that were running in past years. With the money from those ads of yore, the Globe built its staff, distribution network, everything — it’s cost sructure. There used to be a dozen large ads from Jordan’s and Filene’s in the front section, several days a week. Help wanted classifieds would fill entire sections of the Sunday paper. Anyone wanting to rent an apartment or buy a car always turned to the Globe. Sure, you see lots of bank branches around, but that’s not where the decisions are made. Boston is a branch-office city.zzzzzzz

  7. Ani

    So mall stores and big banks can just sit there and the business will come without advertising, is what I’m hearing, whereas before getting your message out to people that you were there was necessary in order to draw in business (I’ve left out the classifieds issue because I don’t see how, short of raising a competing website, to resurrect that component). On the other hand, I receive a fair amount of direct email advertising from “catalog companies,” on-line retailers, and even very local businesses in my community (not to mention all the snail mail direct advertising, some of which comes from companies I have never directly done business with). So what I’m wondering is whether there is any way for media outlets to help businesses find potential customers to target directly and to charge the businesses for doing so.As an afterthought, Dan, here’s my contribution to the “favorite line about lies in a song” category: “man i know she’s lyin’ cause i’m lyin’ too” (Dave Carter in “walkin away from caroline” on Tanglewood Tree (with Tracy Grammer)).

  8. Patricia of Trakai

    Yes, big businesses can just sit there and the customers will roll in without advertising … that’s what happens when you have merger after merger, so that you have really only one game in town. Wanna shop at a store like Macy’s? Well, only Macy’s is left. It’s not as if Macy’s has to compete against Gimbels in NYC and Philly, or Jordan’s and Filene’s, or Denholm’s in Worcester (remember that?) or practically every other major department store.I live in the DC area now, and I am sick, so I was just comparing TheraFlu prices in the small locally owned supermarket and the big chain pharmacy that has gobbled up so many other chains (you know what it is, and it rhymes with CBS). Funny, the TheraFlu name brand cost the same at the local supermarket as the chain’s generic brand, and the chain priced the name-brand TheraFlu a couple of bucks higher. So much for economies of scale….

  9. Ron Newman

    Not to belabor the point, but of those 11 bank branches I mentioned, 8 are headquartered in Somerville, Cambridge, Medford, or Boston.Yes we’ve become a ‘branch-office’ city to a certain extent, but that’s not the whole story.

  10. Ron Newman

    And as for Macy’s … don’t they still have to compete with Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Kmart, Sears, Target, and various other such stores? All of whom still advertise in the Globe, by the way.

  11. LFNeilson

    Sure, those stores need to advertise. But there’s been a lot of consolidation. But with less competition, they will probably advertise less. Macy’s and Maxx aren’t in the same market niche.The Globe finds itself in a “perfect storm” situation, with too much debt, high fixed costs, new competition for ads and readers, a declining commercial base and, last but not least, a recession. You also have to consider the type of advertiser who would go into the Globe. For a large regional bank like Fleet or Bank of Boston, the Globe was a good fit. Whether you were in Boston, Braintree, Burlington, or Bellingham, you could easily go to one of their branches. And they were competing against banks of like size, so they needed to advertise. A small local bank from Somerville may run ads in City Weekly or the Somerville Journal, but they’re not going to spend the megas it takes to do a full run in the Globe. Think of how many banks have been gobbled up: State Street, Bay Bank, Shawmut, Bank of Boston, N.E. Merchants, Fleet.When Bank of America goes head-to-head with Citigroup, their medium of choice is not a metro daily.Consider, too, that herd mentality helps drive ad sales. It was musical chairs and the tune has changed.I hope they can put together a new plan. Fortunately the NYT has fairly deep pockets. But I doubt we’ll see a Globe of yesterday’s size any time in the near future.zzzzzzzz

  12. T

    I suggest anyone who thinks that all the Globe has to do to get advertising revenue is “try harder” go out and do it. Apply for a job at the Globe, or any other paper, and see how easy it is. Then report back to us.Most of Boston, and large parts of the Somerville and Cambridge, are just not the demographic that most businesses want.Remember that many of the banks that people keep mentioning above do advertise in the Globe, but prefer to make use of its entire circulation, not just its poorest part.Most small businesses do not think they need to spend money on print, they have their customers and rely on word of mouth and street traffic.

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