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

Next steps for the shrinking Globe

Working harder isn’t going to do it once the Boston Globe has finished with its current round of 50 reductions to the newsroom staff. Once that process has been completed, the news staff will have shrunk from about 550 full-time journalists (or their equivalent) in 2000 to roughly 330. That means the Globe will, of necessity, be a fundamentally different paper.

This Friday, I’m going to be talking about the future of local news on “Radio Boston,” on WBUR (90.9 FM), from 1 to 2 p.m., along with El Planeta managing editor Marcela García, Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub and Globe regional editor David Dahl. I’ve been thinking about these ideas for a while, and this seems like as good a time as any to put them out there. (The Globe cuts will also be discussed on “Beat the Press,” on WGBH-TV/Channel 2, on Friday at 7 p.m.)

As the newspaper business has shrunk over the past few years, Globe executives have made some tough decisions about priorities. There are no more international bureaus. There is little national coverage outside of Washington. The Washington bureau has stayed, in part because Boston remains a politically minded town, in part because the Globe’s Washington coverage is picked up by a lot of news Web sites around the country. Essentially, though, the Globe has become a local and regional paper.

Now, though, it would appear that the Globe won’t even be able to cover local news as thoroughly without fundamentally rethinking how it should go about its business.

Like just about every news junkie, I have some thoughts — nothing original, and nothing, I’m sure, that editor Marty Baron, Boston.com editor David Beard, Globe managing editor Caleb Solomon, publisher Steve Ainsley and company haven’t already considered. The crisis is ongoing, and it won’t be solved by cutting 50 positions.

The question of whether the Globe is worth $20 million or $200 million, and if it is among the 10 most likely papers to close or drop its print edition (see Douglas McIntyre’s latest), is irrelevant. The survival of every large regional paper in the country is at stake right now.

1. Re-define Boston.com as the Globe’s principal news vehicle. This is tricky. With 5.2 million unique visitors a month, Boston.com has more readers than any online regional newspaper, far outperforming its print edition in the national rankings. So, yes, first, do no harm. But Boston.com needs to be branded as the umbrella for all of the Globe’s readers — the only platform that reaches what we used to call a mass audience.

Nevertheless, there’s a visual dichotomy between Boston.com and the Globe’s own online presence that helps neither entity. It goes back to the earliest days of the Web, when Boston.com had a number of partners, including Boston magazine, Banker & Tradesman and New England Cable News. These days, Boston.com is like Yugoslavia — a former federation now consisting of just one country, the Globe.

The problem with Boston.com is that you enter it not quite knowing whether you are going to encounter all of the Globe’s content. Despite several redesigns over the years, it remains too easy to get lost, too. Because of efforts to establish Boston.com as being separate from the Globe, it has a feel that might charitably be described as lite. I would redo the site so that it is clearly stamped as the Globe’s 24/7 news operation, very much along the lines of the New York Times and Washington Post Web sites.

Next, I would take it a step further than most newspaper sites have been willing to do. Though I would include all (or most — see next item) of the Globe’s content on Boston.com, I would drop the “Today’s Paper” feature. It’s fine and probably necessary to post the Globe’s content on its free Web site. Recent proposals by the likes of Walter Isaacson, Steven Brill and Alan Mutter to charge for online content are well-intentioned but deeply flawed.

But that doesn’t mean Boston.com ought to offer the Globe in a form that’s organized exactly the same way as the print edition. Why should the Globe — or the Times or the Post or anyone else — offer a perfect substitute? The Boston Herald, by the way, is already doing this, running a 24/7 news site that is entirely unconnected to its print edition.

Last fall I had a chance to interview John Yemma, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor (and a former Globe staff member). As you no doubt know, next month the Monitor will end its daily print edition. [Update: In fact, it has already printed its final edition.] Instead, it will supplement its own 24/7 Web site with a weekly magazine. All of the magazine’s content will be posted on the Web site — but it will be distributed among different content and subject areas. The magazine itself will not be posted as a separate and distinct entity.

“We’re going to disaggregate the print edition and feed it to the appropriate places,” Yemma said.

Not a bad idea.

2. Charge a lot more for the print edition. The Globe still sells almost 325,000 papers on weekdays and 500,000 on Sundays. That’s a lot of papers, even though it’s a far cry from the more than 500,000 it used to sell on weekdays and the 800,000-plus it sold on Sundays.

If the advertising market hadn’t changed so completely, the picture wouldn’t be nearly so dire. But it’s simply a fact of life that Craigslist has devastated the classified market, formerly the most lucrative part of the Globe.

OK, now take a deep breath. I would charge $2 for the daily edition (up from 75 cents) and $5 on Sunday (up from $2.50). What effect would such an increase have on circulation? A rather large one, I suspect. But given that the print edition of any newspaper is a break-even proposition (at best) because of the cost of paper, ink, distribution and the like, it makes sense to extract some serious revenue out of readers who really want a print edition in the morning.

Customers willing to pay such a price would be an elite audience especially attractive to advertisers. (The danger that editors would have to avoid is the temptation to tailor their coverage accordingly.) And the Globe would actually be making money from its print edition.

The problem with such an idea, of course, is that you’d be asking people to pay a lot more money at a time when the paper is thinner than it’s ever been. The challenge is to offer extra value. I don’t have any good answers to that. Perhaps there is some content that would be reserved exclusively for print readers.

The metro columnists? Probably not. How about a really well-edited, analytical daily briefing on world, national and local news that would take up all of an ad-free pages two and three? It would have to be sufficiently meaty that it would take 10 or 15 minutes to get through it, and leave readers feeling as though they didn’t absolutely have to read the rest of the paper. That would be a real service to time-starved folks who are serious about news.

The extra value doesn’t have to be only related to content. Subscribers would receive a Globe card, just like a public television contributor card. Cooperating businesses could offer discounts to cardholders. Free admission could be offered to certain Globe-sponsored events. This would represent an expansion of current efforts rather than something entirely new.

3. Blog what you can’t cover. As Jeff Jarvis likes to say, “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.” Given that there are going to be fewer local reporters on the Globe’s staff, I would hire about a half-dozen bloggers to offer intelligent aggregation of local blogs covering politics, food, sports, city life — what have you. You could then take the highlights and reverse-publish them in the print edition.

I want to draw a distinction between the bloggers you’d hire, who would be paid, and the bloggers whose work would be aggregated, who wouldn’t be paid. Some of the aggregatees wouldn’t want to be included, which is fine. Most would be thrilled. I’m always happy to see Media Nation featured on Boston.com or in the VoxOp column on the op-ed page.

And by the way, I’m talking about paid bloggers who would offer judgment, commentary and context — not the automated aggregation of local content that got the Globe into trouble earlier this year. It wouldn’t be as cheap, but it would be a crucial investment in the future.

4. Do something about the Metro dilemma. Why on earth did the Globe’s corporate parent, the New York Times Co., buy 49 percent of Metro Boston a few years ago? It was just enough deny it the control that it needs.

I would do everything I could to capture a controlling interest in Metro — or, failing that, start a competitor. I’d keep it as a freebie tabloid and continue aiming it at younger readers and subway and bus riders. Then I would fill it exclusively with shorter versions of Globe stories and use it relentlessly to promote Boston.com and the full-scale print edition.

There’s money to be made in free newspapers. In fact, let’s keep going with that idea.

5. Develop a variety of free, advertiser-supported publications. Last year the Globe repackaged all of its arts, entertainment and lifestyle coverage in a daily tabloid called g. Whether you like g or not (departing literary-beat reporter David Mehegan gives it a thumbs-down), it does present the Globe with an opportunity to do something different — give it away in places where people who are looking for something to do would be likely to pick it up.

The Globe folded its paid sports magazine, OT, in a matter of months. It should have tried free distribution at sporting events. As with g, I think advertisers would have been attracted to such a publication if the Globe had found a way to get it into the hands of sports fans.

I have no idea whether it’s considered a success, but the Globe is already doing something like this with Lola, a giveaway aimed at women. Snicker if you like. But in an era when there is no longer any such thing as a mass audience, a newspaper must target many different audiences.

Would these ideas save the Globe? I don’t know, but I think they’re worth trying. The other ideas that are floating around — going online-only, or putting out a print edition just three or four days a week — are a lot more drastic, and would represent a continuing downward spiral rather than a new beginning.

Not to sound old-fashioned, but I believe that a healthy Globe is vital to the civic life of the community. You often hear people ask whether Boston will remain “a two-newspaper town,” a reference to the Globe and the Herald. I think that’s looking at it the wrong way.

The fact is that the Globe, even in its shrunken state, remains the dominant regional media organization. There are a number of other important news outlets — not just the Herald, but the Boston Phoenix, WBUR, New England Cable News, local television stations and community papers. In other words, there’s the Globe, and there’s everyone else.

The Globe and other large metropolitan dailies will never be restored. They can, I hope, be reconceived.

As always, I invite your comments.

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50 Comments

  1. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Good sugestions.FWIW – While reading, it struck me that one of their assets IS the Boston.com name, which doesn’t even mention the Globe. As you observe, it’s a holdover from when they were a multi-site insted of Globe only. Have they considered selling that name, with the proviso that a permanent link to BostonGlobe.com be prominently featured? I have MidWestern relatives who once complained to me that Boston.com comes up when searching Boston, but the paper isn’t what they’re looing for, but info on Old Ironsides, etc. which was the subject of the search.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I would imagine that Boston.com name is pure gold. Your relatives were annoyed. But others might stumble onto the site and say, hey, this is pretty useful. And whether they like it or not, they’re counted as unique visitors!

  3. cody

    I definitely like the idea of more synergy and tiering of the various properties. 1) Turn Metro into the free mobile edition of the Globe and make it free as a print edition and perhaps as a mobile product that could be downloaded onto your device and read offline. 2) Agree with your suggestion of the Globe becoming more expensive and focused only and what they can do well – Sports and local politics plus homegrown columnists/personalities.3) Invest in boston.com and take it to the next level as the true digital hub for all news, opinion and lifestyle relevant to Boston. Expand into social networking, online chats with writers, more original video content and better managed discussion forums. perhaps partner with established TV/Radio properties and reach out to local bloggers and podcasters. make boston.com the place for real-time interaction and conversation with the globe staffers and other like-minded consumers.

  4. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, good ideas, but not sure about jacking the price up that high ($2 per daily, $5 on Sunday). I’ve been seriously considering dropping my subscription now as it is, with the Globe charging me $2.50 over the cover price per week right now for home delivery (funny how with magazine subscriptions you actually get a discount off of the cover price when you subscribe – not with the Globe). Think that route would be analogous to the kid charging $100 for a glass of lemonade (“all I have to do is sell one and I’m all set”).

  5. Lucy

    this would’ve been a good conversation to have in 1999. too little too late. it’s over, johnny.

  6. djcmurphy

    I’m going to agree with Mike that upping the subscription price is a bad idea. The Globe already caters to the upper middle class more than I care for (an analysis of Sunday magazine content would clearly show that far more material revolves around consumption than actual news). While increasing the cost of the paper might make it more attractive to advertisers, I am sure the paper would degenerate further into a celebration of the rich and spending than it already has. Maybe my tastes and media needs have matured, but I am struck by what seems to be a dramatic drop off in weighty content over the years.Finally, the paper’s billing department is god-awful and always has been. My wife has threatened to cancel our subscription several times due to the gross incompetence of the billing department (how hard can it be?). Ticking off paying customers can’t be a good business plan.

  7. Tim Allik

    Dan, I agree about the branding problem. I’ve always felt that way. The Boston.com brand dilutes The Boston Globe brand. The way The Globe is positioned on Boston.com (a small logo in the upper right) makes the paper seem less important than it really is. Meantime, The Boston Globe Online is basically a static copy of the paper from the night before, making the Globe’s online entity seem even weaker. They should be boasting The Globe brand whereever and whenever possible. They don’t have to call it “The Boston Globe Online” by the way. Just call it The Boston Globe. We know it’s online. It’s 2009 for God’s sake. I personally still enjoy reading the daily print paper, but wonder if it would make fiscal sense to limit print circulation to 4 days – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. But I’m not a beancounter and have no idea whether that would do any good. It also might be smart of The Globe to tap into the events business by beefing up the virtual community aspects of the site and then extending virtual community to in-the-flesh meetups. That would be great for Boston, good for the Globe brand and it also might generate revenue. But again, who knows. As a former news producer and project manager at Boston.com, I have lots of respect for the editors, reporters and producers at The Globe and Boston.com. They are courageously facing a tremendously difficult challenge, and most are driven by a mission that transcends career or ego. We need this outlet to be healthy and vital for all of our sakes.

  8. endangered coffee

    Hyperlocal news, links to interesting blogs and things people are interested in.Oh, wait. Think I’ll just head over to Universal Hub.

  9. matteomht

    Let me point out the prosaic problem of charging so much for the paper edition of the Globe: You’ll have to spend more to deliver it, since people will expect quality service. My biggest beef with the NYT, for example, isn’t the coverage or the cost; it’s that the damned thing never arrives on time and at least once a week isn’t there at all. If I’m paying $2 or more per day, I’ll want the delivery guy to put the paper in my door, get it there by 6 a.m.– the whole nine yards. I did that as a paperboy for the Globe 25 years ago. Today it’s some dude who chucks the paper from his car as he drives by. That’s not the quality of service I’d expect for a high price.

  10. mike_b1

    Maybe the Globe should buy all its subscribers a Kindle with the understanding that the subscriber would then pay X for content for the next two years.It’d be like a cellphone contract. And it would help expedite the inevitable shift to a common portable digital reading platform (christ, I sound like an IT stiff).

  11. lkcape

    Price increase: A rapid agonizing death to The Globe.The other suggestion: A slighly less rapid, but still agonizing death to The Globe.The only suggestion that makes sense is the 3-4 pages dedicated to thoughtful analysis. But why not, then, just become a weekly magazine and be done with it. My view is that The Globe is dying because of its content. The ad slump is contributing to the issues, but quality of the news product began its decline long before the ad revenues began to slip.

  12. ron-newman

    If the Globe raised prices to the level you suggest, I would cancel my home delivery subscription or change to Sunday-only. A lot of other people would do the same thing. It doesn’t make sense to pay a higher price for a lesser product.

  13. acf

    If the Globe tries to charge $2.00 for a daily and $5.00 for a sunday print edition, or anything remotely close to that, I promise that I will cancel my subscription. Just because the NY Times does it, is no reason the Globe should, or even could. They would have to more than double the size, quality and content of the Globe for it to be worth near that, and still they would be selling the thing for more than is reasonable for a daily newspaper. What they pass off as a paper today is no longer worth what they charge for it, and don’t give me the economic argument why it is.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Let me offer an additional comment about my idea of charging a lot more for the print edition of the Globe.I know a lot of people would drop the paper. In part, that’s the point — the Globe actually loses money by printing and distributing the print edition to marginal customers (especially those who live outside the 128 belt).I’m not sure my idea has any merit or not. But if it does, the Globe would end up with a much smaller but still sizable group of readers who really want the paper in print and who are willing to pay for it.That said, I know the Globe would have to offer some additional incentives to print subscribers. I offered a few ideas. Perhaps others have better proposals.

  15. Mike from Norwell

    Marginal customers, eh? Guess that adapted New Yorker map has shrunk the Midwest boundary from the Connecticut River to the Charles in the eyes of the provincial Bostonian!

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: It’s literally a matter of cost. I’ve been told the Globe loses money on every subscriber who lives beyond Route 495.

  17. Southie

    If you up the price of the Globe, segment the news and give it away elsewhere (Metro OT, etc…) you will substantially decrease the subscription number and thus the advertising volume and price. Boston.com aside, the Globe print edition commands a much larger price and adds a lot more dollars to The New York Times than Boston.com. Let’s not even mention every Sunday insert that is priced out based on the circ. numbers. Doubling the price of the Sunday paper would hurt the circulation revenue as well as the Ad revenue, and would never materialize in on line or freebie revenue…..And as far as the size of the newsroom, many fine papers produce a daily paper with far less bodies. Just reconfirming my suspicion that I am the only advertising guy reading this blog.

  18. Peter Porcupine

    “the Globe loses money on every subscriber who lives beyond Route 495.”DK – Hmmm…I may have to re-think my decades-old policy of refusing to purchase the Globe…

  19. Eric

    >How about a really well-edited, analytical daily briefing on world, national and local news that would take up all of an ad-free pages two and three?I'd love to see this, but I don't see where it's coming from. I'm a daily subscriber, and must admit that at this point that's purely out of habit; certainly not because I enjoy reading lobotomized reprints of (far longer) NYT pieces and the odd wire report. The locally produced content is often comically poor in its voice, content, editing, and basic grammar. Magically these folks are going to churn out two pages of insight a day? I doubt that in the extreme. All those people left long ago.

  20. lovable liberal

    The long-run question is how to get online advertisers to pay enough to support the delivery of news online. All this talk about paper is hopeless. The current annoying pop-ups don’t reach me. What I can’t figure out is why print advertisers are willing to pay high rates for something most people immediately throw away, yet are unwilling to pay much at all for ads that can at least get reader attention by visual nagging.If it’s true that subscribers outside 495 bleed money out of the Globe, they should stop trying to get me back. I’m so close I can’t be better than a wash. And I’m happy no longer recycling half my papers unopened and having to wash my hands after reading the other half. There are two things that papers have done in reaction to their shrinkage that have only exacerbated it:- They’ve dumbed their content down to try to compete with vacuous TV news, failing to recognize that they now serve a niche market of educated upscale consumers of hard news (the most lucrative demographic), not the mass market. Video of Britney will always beat stills of her.- They’ve failed to recognize that their industry is killing small generalists, that in the Internet age when moving the physical paper no longer matters, what they have to do is compete in the right specialized layer of the news stack.Both boston.com and boston.com/globe are terribly designed for readers. The upside for the Globe is that I still go there because it is the newspaper that matters in New England.

  21. lkcape

    The Globe is much like a balloon that is leaking air…but it still behaves like a balloon.If you push on it at a point, the effect shows elsewhere, and the amount of air being lost increases.Maybe a dignified demise and a proper funeral are in order.

  22. Doug Shugarts

    I wonder if point #5 is entirely on the mark. I think that many newspaper readers appreciate a breadth of news subjects that exceeds the pinpoint focus of a niche publication. They read newspapers (and newspaper websites) for diversion as much as edification.I often think that the narrow, fixed scopes of many print publications are set by marketing departments with little knowledge of true reader habits.

  23. O-FISH-L

    “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: tis’ dearness only that gives everything its value…” — Thomas Paine—I still think posting the entire paper on-line, for free, is a crazy idea. Imagine a restaurant that charged full price to dine-in, but offered the same menu items as takeout for free. Even if they sold advertising on the takeout bags and boxes, but didn’t meet expenses, how long could it last? I realize there is a value to unique web visitors and all that, I just don’t see how you can charge for one format and not charge for the exact same content in a more convenient format. I’m not an MBA but I’m also struck by the Globe’s seemingly endless string of buyouts, layoffs and now salary rollbacks. Why not make major cuts once and for all, then use the savings to stabilize things or maybe grow back a little bit? It seems to be once a month now that the Globe is announcing piecemeal cuts, none of which instill confidence in the reader or the morale of the remaining staff. It reminds me of the diabetic who needs his leg amputated but opts to start with a few toes first. Make the harsh cuts and allow the healing to begin.

  24. lovable liberal

    O-FISH-L, advertising pays for news operations. Subscriptions only pay for printing and delivery, roughly speaking. Online readers are already paying those fees, though not to the paper. It’s roughly a wash.The problem is that online advertisers don’t pay competitive rates. Are they underpaying? If so, when paper ends, as it will, online rates will rise. Or, are they overpaying for paper out of habit? Then, it’s anyone’s guess.

  25. ron-newman

    Before ‘g’ is given away in an attempt to compete with the Phoenix, Dig, and Improper, it needs to get back most of the Calendar-like content that the Globe unwisely dropped. Aim to be the most comprehensive guide to events of all kinds in the Boston area.

  26. ron-newman

    “Subscribers would receive a Globe card, just like a public television contributor card. Cooperating businesses could offer discounts to cardholders.”The Globe used to have exactly this! Subscribers got a plastic card, with the Globe’s logo on it, that was good for discounts at various restaurants. They dropped this program a few years ago. I don’t know why. It’s a good way to build subscriber loyalty.

  27. O-FISH-L

    Lovable Liberal, how many former print display advertisers are spending their ad budgets elsewhere now that “the paper” is free on-line and circulation has plummetted? I don’t think print advertising and free on-line distribution of the paper are mutually exclusive.Also, your point that on-line readers are paying subscription fees, just not to the newspapers, brings me back to my crude restaurant analogy. Isn’t that like saying customers getting the free takeout are paying to eat, just not paying anything to that restaurant?

  28. NewsHound

    Charging a lot more for the print edition might be a quick way to lose circulation, thus reducing the value of advertising resulting in either lowering the price of advertising or going out of business quicker. Advertising rates should include the cost of production for that portion of the newspaper. Even if there were 48 pages of news which would accommodate a 136-page newspaper with a 65-35% ratio, the cost of newsprint and ink is 25 cents for the news portion.I walked into South Station this afternoon and saw a table set up to sell the Herald with no one buying at 50 cents. I’ve also seen days when it is being given away free in the afternoon and four or five people are giving it away as rapidly as they physically can.If you can just charge more and make more money, if it were that simple, the Taylors should have done that back in the 70s.

  29. Patricia of Trakai

    Another fundamental problem with the online world is that there’s no digital equivalent of the full-page ad. Think of the huge bucks that print papers have traditionally commandeered for full-pagers, particularly in the “A” section. Even the most annoying electronic ads don’t take up anywhere near that space. No wonder they don’t rake in the big bucks. They just look too small on the screen.

  30. mike_b1

    O-Fish, the proper comparison would be software, not food. Software, like news, has a one-time development charge. After that, reproduction costs are fairly nominal and mostly tied to the packaging and distribution method.

  31. mike_b1

    Patricia, of course there is: There are pop-up ad that take up the entire page. Unlike with printed matter, the risk here is that readers are so annoyed that they deliberately avoid the product and/or company.

  32. O-FISH-L

    mike B_1, I’ll stick with the restaurant analogy. How do you figure a daily newspaper (the parts that readers consume) has a one time development charge when the news is in constant flux, changing at least daily in print and dozens of times a day on-line? Patricia is right. There is no comparison between on-line and print ads. Most popups are automatically blocked and the ones that aren’t can be clicked away in half a second. The static ads are usually too small to be a factor. In fact, I’d be interested to know if there have been any scientific studies on the differences in how readers browse ads on a printed page compared to an electronic one. To me anyway, the ads in print seem to have a much bigger impact.

  33. acf

    Funny thing. I have a decades old policy of refusing to buy or read the Herald.

  34. acf

    The idea of giving away on the Internet the same product that you are trying to sell at the news stand or via subscription is illogical. Unfortunately, when the web was new, and papers were in rush to get their presence on the web, the wisdom giving it away was never really questioned. Now, the horse is out of the barn, and online content is expected to be free, and woe is the paper that tries to charge for its content.

  35. lovable liberal

    Look, the traditional model of newspaper revenue is to give away the content and to sell the consumers to advertisers. Subscriptions have paid for getting the newsprint to the doorstep, nothing more. Now delivery online is essentially free, and the model is still to sell the eyeballs to the advertisers. But the advertisers won’t pay as much for pixels as they will for paper.Don’t fall in love with your analogies. They don’t actually prove anything.

  36. T

    Habits have changed. People used to look at the Globe for advertising as well as news: sales at Filene’s and Jordan Marsh, classified ads.How about trying to hit back at Craigs List by posting classified ads for free on the Boston.com website? Get people looking at the Globe online for one of the same reasons they used to check out the print edition. Push back against the competition that took away so much of their revenue, make them sweat for a change. It would increase the site’s online views as well, which might help revenue overall. Just a thought.

  37. Aaron Read

    If you’re gonna charge for the Globe, I would suggest focusing more on the Sunday paper than the weekdays/Saturday.Why? No other reason than my wife and I used to always sleep in on Sunday, then head somewhere within walking distance (we lived in Coolidge Corner) for brunch…and the Sunday Globe was invariably part of that routine. She’s a big reader in general, I’m a news junkie, so it was a very pleasant routine.Based on other patrons we’d usually see at our half-dozen “regular” venues, I’d opine several other people were in similar routines.But we never did this during the week, and rarely on Saturday. So I think if you’re gonna go for making cash off the paper, go for broke on the Sunday edition.BTW: insert my usual “so crazy it just might work” idea that Boston University buy the Globe and turn it into a “working classroom” for journalist students. Every Globe employee gets assigned to be a mentor to a student as part of their regular job…and the Globe gets an owner willing (and fiscally able) to take more a loss on operations if it properly complements a course curriculum. Despite the hit BU has taken to its endowment, I could easily see them pulling it off.

  38. David

    The problem is simple. The Globe peddled liberal talking points that people got, and are still getting, tired of hearing. Therefore, they refuse to buy the paper. Liberal ideology from stuffy quasi-Harvard-educated snobs on the order of Ellen Goodman et al. don’t sell papers, because the ideas themselves are rubbish.

  39. lovable liberal

    Uh, David, bullshit. As Dan Kennedy has noted, the audience is not smaller. There are plenty of readers on line.Besides, go read the comments. There are plenty of wingnuts who love to hate the Globe.The rubbish – yours – is mostly on the right.

  40. Ron Newman

    I’d say the Globe is a shade less to the left today than it was in its heyday. The voting patterns in this region accord pretty well with the Globe’s politics. Political leaning is not the problem here.

  41. mike_b1

    Fish, you’re confusing variable costs and fixed costs. They are very different. The proper with newspapers isn’t the cost of staff, it is the cost of delivery. But, you can stick to your (wrong) analogy. Why wreck your losing streak now?

  42. John Farrell

    I like to think there’s opportunity here for science writers (ahem) to offer the Globe something blog-wise on a regular basis.:)

  43. Nial Liszt

    **The voting patterns in this region accord pretty well with the Globe’s politics**Not so much on major referendum questions over the years, where the voters get to make a direct choice on issues.

  44. Pete

    I believe what the Globe needs is character. There’s always a place for good old-fashioned news coverage. But today’s reader also wants to be entertained. Open the door to narrative, which seems to be propping up many smaller papers, and you might have something. After all, Boston is rich with stories, and Hollywood shouldn’t be the only one cashing in on them.

  45. lkcape

    Narrative and edge.If you want a real hoot, go back and read some articles from Time Magazine from the ’30s and 40’s.Very different time in journalism.

  46. O-FISH-L

    mike_b1: So do I understand you correctly that the Globe should be happy that print circulation is falling because this saves on fixed costs (number of delivery trucks needed) or is it the savings on variable costs (fuel for the trucks)? Jeesh, I never thought to ask if you’re in Globe management now? As for losing arguments, aren’t you the genius who recently had us reaping $3.5m each from the stimulus package?

  47. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Pete – there is a paper with charachter, those local stories, etc. It’s called the Herald.

  48. rozzie02131

    I remember the first time I saw a newspaper put its entire product online for free. It was nando.com, the News and Observer in North Carolina. I thought it was crazy then and I still do. The arguments that news has to be free make no sense but I enjoy the product of the insanity, while I’m glad I don’t work at a newspaper.I predict the newspaper business will consolidate much as it has been since sometime around the 1920’s, with big papers buying smaller ones and merging with other big papers. So, instead of the Post, Herald, Traveler, American, Globe, Record, and Evening Globe, we now have the Globe and the Herald. In a few years, we may have the New England edition of the New York Times, with some localized content for the papers it replaces all over the region. Maybe the Post will expand to take over what’s left of the Herald’s readers, too. Hopefully they’ll maintain a staff capable of producing a paper that’s worth $2 a day for the committed readers who continue.

  49. mike_b1

    Fish, to quote my favorite Animal House character, “Geez, you’re dumb.” For a newspaper, a story must be written, which means labor and materials (phones, computers, etc.), which are fixed costs. Likewise, for a software company, the software must be developed (fixed cost). In both cases, once complete the product can be disseminated a variety of ways. If you go digital, it means the cost of a web site (fixed cost), and in both cases you need servers and maintenance to handle the traffic (fixed costs). If user (reader) demand ramps, the increased resources needed (more servers, for example) would be variable costs. If demand is flat, there’s no increased cost. But, to address your earlier “point,” it doesn’t cost a newspaper like the Globe any more to publish 50 stories a day online than it does to publish 500. They just end up maximizing the resources they are already paying for.Likewise, if you make a hard copy (a printed paper, a CD for the software) and mail or otherwise distribute that hard copy, your costs are going to be higher (duh). The analogy holds. A restaurant, to use your bizarre analogy, has lots of fixed costs: staff, equipment, space, etc. that it has to pay whether it serves one customer or 1,000. For most restaurants, the cost of materials (food) is the smallest major line item. With all that overhead, it becomes easy to lose money quickly when business slows. That’s why software companies typically have profit margins of 80% – and restaurants don’t.As the rest of us know, the Globe doesn’t lose money writing a story, it loses money printing a paper. There is quarter after quarter of empirical data proving that. What we don’t know is whether it would lose money if it went to a 100% digital distribution model.As for the $3.5M, that’s what happens sometimes when I do large calculations in my head instead of using a calculator. Which makes me like your hero, George Bush, I suppose. The difference is, my mistake didn’t f*** up the entire world.—–As for your pop-up dismissal, there is something called a landing page that readers can’t avoid and that pop-up blockers don’t, well, block. They are common in the trade pub sites. It’s no wonder that trade magazines have surpassed consumer publications in revenues.

  50. Jonquil

    “Unfortunately, when the web was new, and papers were in rush to get their presence on the web, the wisdom giving it away was never really questioned.”Rubbish. It was repeatedly questioned, and many newspapers set up for-pay portals. It didn’t work.Those who do not remember failed business models are condemned to repeat them…

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