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

GlobeReader makes a quiet debut

With little fanfare, the Boston Globe has unveiled a “preview” edition of GlobeReader, an attempt to produce an online newspaper that offers a better experience than the Web version. GlobeReader is slick and highly readable. Save for subtle differences in the fonts that are used, it looks exactly like Times Reader 2.0, which the New York Times unveiled last month. Both are built on the Adobe Air platform, which allows developers to build applications outside the context of the Web.

Unlike Times Reader, which you can subscribe to as a standalone product for $14.95 a month, GlobeReader is free but available only to print subscribers. You do not, however, have to be a seven-day subscriber — a Thursday-through-Sunday or Sunday-only subscription is sufficient.

That’s probably a smart move. Knowledgeable people have told me that more than half of the Globe’s advertising revenue comes from the Sunday paper. Still, Globe spokesman Bob Powers says that could change.

As for what we can expect once GlobeReader has moved beyond the “preview” stage, Powers writes:

We’ve chosen the term preview edition to reflect that GlobeReader is a brand new product for us, and to a large degree the industry, which we will continually improve based upon reader feedback. We want to make sure the customers help shape future editions. We are also opening GlobeReader Preview Edition only to subscribers because we do want to hear from our most loyal readers.

We also expect to add features such as crosswords, ‘news in video’, a ‘latest news’ update, and ’email to a friend’ in the upcoming weeks/months, as they become available.

[F]or formatting reasons we are not including features such as comics, TV grids, weather, and sports box scores. We will look to add these features to a large degree based on reader’s priorities.

A friend who works at the Globe told me recently that GlobeReader is actually a bigger technical challenge than Times Reader because of some peculiarities in the way the Globe is assembled. So I’d give it some settling-down time.

So what’s the business strategy? It seems to me that it’s a hedge against people canceling home delivery of the Globe altogether, especially now that prices have gone up quite a bit. The Globe benefits if people at least hold on to Sunday delivery; it may also benefit from not having to pay the printing and distribution costs of the considerably less lucrative Monday-through-Saturday editions.

It’s an interesting strategy and, combined with other delivery platforms, such as the $9.99-a-month Kindle edition, may help chart a path out of the current mess in which the newspaper business finds itself. Such projects are not going to be nearly enough, but they could help.

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  1. Outraged Liberal

    Definitely will make it easier to read when I'm not cruising for links. But it may have been the most ridiculous install I ever tried. I never got a response that Adobe AIR was opening and I probably downloaded five versions of the installer.

  2. acf

    If I were to get the point where I would cancel my home delivery of the Globe, it would most likely start with the Sunday edition. Other than the Magazine which I like for the crossword only, the rest of the paper has diminished into a lot of nothing for the money. Keeping Mon to Sat gives me the news I need, and dumping Sun eliminates a not really worth it chunk of change.

  3. BobH

    Had no problem with the installation whatsoever, OL. Installed just like any other Air application.

  4. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, thanks for the link. Was wondering when this was going to come out. Now to try it on the netbook.

  5. aml

    A bigger technical challenge because of the way the Globe is assembled. Does the Globe have some sort of justifiable reason why their internal processes would need to be more complex than Times?I can see why the Globe would need a more complex system if their business processes were more complex (If the people using the system were distributed over a larger space or time. If the content needed to be distributed to a wider variety of systems, etc.) but I can't imagine any issue that the Globe would have that the Times wouldn't have in at least as large or larger scale.If they do have systems that are more complicated, but that complexity isn't suiting a business purpose, then the "bigger technical challenge" isn't actually an achievement. Instead it points to a previous failure.

  6. Steve Brown

    Globe Reader downloaded with ease to my MacBook, and I've enjoyed the experience of reading the Globe on line. I've been hanging onto my subscription, even though I rarely pull the newspaper out of the plastic bag. The Globe Reader makes me glad I did. I'll still check out Boston dot com throughout the day, but sometimes that (as with most newspaper-related sites) is the first draft of the first draft of history.

  7. Owen

    My girlfriend and I recently went on the Globe website because we wanted to subscribe to the print addition. She has a new long commute by train, so she thought it'd be nice to have a Real Newspaper to read every weekday morning.Except, as we discovered, it's not possible to subscribe to the Globe on weekdays only. The Sunday edition is bloated and a waste of trees, and we'll never read it.So we didn't subscribe. Way to go, "old media."

  8. Dan Kennedy

    ami: I'm talking about internal things, like headlines and stories for late-breaking sports news coming from two different directions.Owen: I am not a salesman for the Globe. But you ought to do the math on how long it would take for a Kindle to pay for itself with a $10-a-month subscription to the Globe as opposed to $50 for print. Plus you'd have a Kindle.

  9. rozzie02131

    The Globe lists a Monday-Saturday subscription option every day in the print edition. It's kinda stupid of them not to tell you about it online, but I'm sure if you call them they'll be happy to sell you the weekday Globe. The base rate is $9 a week, but they'll probably give you a new subscriber discount.

  10. John Gatti Jr

    The boston herald tried charging for columnists awhilemback for Howie Carr, Margery Egan, and Peter Gelzinis. It did not work.We all know that something must be done, tried, or thinking out of the BOX.I do not see this model working. If it does coul help plug a hole in the rapid flowing red red ink of losses.Government must step in or investigative reporting we all have come to expect and our press freedoms enjoyedwill fail.

  11. Mr Punch

    Times Reader eaasy to get. Globe Reader requires a subscriber number, which would appear on my invoice except that I don't get an invoice. Really annoying.

  12. PowerBlaster

    Help! I'm caught in voice-mail hell with the Globe.I subscribed Saturday and delivery started today. Great, except despite including the required e-mail address when I signed up, I never received a "subscriber number." Which you need, to activate the GlobeReader. And good luck getting that "subscriber number" online, because if you try to login to your account, you need a — you guessed it — subscriber number. So… I called the handy 888 number, which is closed for the evening but nicely leaves you the option to leave a message (after entering your home phone and street number).Slight problem — the voice mail system is full.Hard to believe they're serious about wanting new subscribers. How hard can it be to forward the phones to Mumbai after hours? Or maybe to Mr. P. Steven Ainsley's home?Anyway, I expect to resolve this tomorrow when I can (presumably) speak to a human. Rant #2, to poster 'aml,' above … I wrote to the ombudsman maybe ten+ years ago asking, if the apparently much more complex and national New York Times can include the end of a story in the same section it began in, why can't the much more humble Globe? Not to take credit, but the result was the success. They apparently looked at the problem anew, and (maybe; apparently) used the Times' approach, whatever that may be. So, I'd say there is no technical reason for the supposed 'technical challenge.' They just need a new set of eyes looking at the problem.P.S. I won't take credit for the section fix, but the ombudsman did print my question to them, without attribution, and the fix came shortly thereafter.** END of RANTS **

  13. PowerBlaster

    Ditto Mr. Punch.

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