Going lean and green with GlobeReader

Our new front page
Our new front page

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in more than 30 years, we won’t be looking for the Boston Globe on our front walkway. Last night I took a rather momentous step — I canceled home delivery of the Monday-to-Saturday print edition, leaving us only with the Sunday paper.

Why did we do this? It’s been inevitable since early this summer, when the Globe made a couple of important changes in its distribution model. First, it unveiled GlobeReader, an electronic paper that’s a faster and easier read than the Web edition. Second, it raised the price of its print edition.

Seven-day home delivery of the Globe now costs $46.56 a month in Media Nation. With advertising in what may be a permanent decline, readers are going to have to pick up more of the cost, so I certainly don’t fault the Globe for charging more. But our family is not immune from economic pressures. For us, it makes sense to go with paper on Sundays and use GlobeReader the rest of the week.

By canceling the daily Globe, are we contributing to the paper’s financial woes? We thought long and hard about that before making our decision. The Globe remains the most important news organization in Greater Boston. Civic life would be much poorer without it.

We would not have canceled the paper if the only alternative was to read it on the Web. Like virtually all newspapers, the Globe is struggling with its decision some dozen year ago to offer its content online for free. At one time, newspaper executives assumed that advertising revenues would eventually justify that decision. It didn’t happen — it may never happen — and the way out of that morass is unclear. We were not about to contribute to that pain.

But Globe executives presumably had their eyes wide open when they unveiled GlobeReader in the midst of a recession and made it available to anyone with Sunday home delivery. Clearly, the idea was to preserve the Sunday edition at all costs. I’ve been told that the Sunday paper accounts for as much as 60 percent of the paper’s revenues. So no, I don’t feel guilty about taking advantage of the Globe’s new business strategy.

Although this was not an overriding factor, it’s also true that electronic delivery is far better for the environment.

Is our move to GlobeReader permanent? Not necessarily. Mrs. Media Nation, whose affinity for old-fashioned print is stronger than mine, is interning at a school library this fall as she works her way toward a master’s. Once that’s over, depending on her schedule, we may resume print.

But if the folks at the Globe are going to offer a variety of electronic-distribution options (not just the Web and GlobeReader, but the Kindle and a mobile cellphone edition, too), we’re going to take advantage of them. I can only hope that they know what they’re doing.

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33 thoughts on “Going lean and green with GlobeReader

  1. amusedbutinformedobserver

    Did they offer any deals to keep you, or try to persuade you to keep on getting the paper delivered, or was this a no-human-contact required transaction? What happens with archive access?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Amused: I tried doing it online, but it didn’t take. I called and was asked why, but no hard sell. As for archives, if you’re a Sunday subscriber, you’re a subscriber, period, and you get everything you’re entitled to as a seven-day subscriber.

  2. Ted M

    I subscribed to the Kindle edition because I am often leave the house before my paper would actually arrive. Got to say, on the DX, I find I read more of the paper than I do looking online. And I miss neither the circulars nor carrying the dead tree refuse out to the curb on Tuesdays. (I do still buy it most Sundays, I admit…)

  3. mike from norwell

    Dan, looking long and hard at that $49 every 4 week bill myself. Think you’re onto something with the Sunday paper only schemata as long as it gets you access to the Globe Reader as well.

  4. We live in the middle of Massachusetts. We can get both the New York Times Sunday edition and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette Sunday edition delivered to our home. We use and like the NYT Reader. We wish we could, but we can’t get the Boston Globe delivered to our home, so no “full access” Globe Reader for us.
    – Lee

  5. rozzie02131

    I actually added a subscription to the Sunday paper edition in order to open Globe Reader access. I had been reading the paid newsstand.com PDF edition but they don’t allow Globe Reader access for those type of subscriptions. (Odd – the New York Times does open Times Reader access for newsstand.com subscribers.)

    The Globe has been carefully wording their Globe Reader messages, always calling it the “Preview Edition.” I strongly suspect, when it goes out of beta, they will try to get a subscription fee for daily Globe Reader use, whether you buy the Sunday paper or not.

  6. Michael Pahre

    Dan, would you care to elaborate on your family’s platform for e-reading? Have you kindled, using home/work computer, or something else? Does the Globe setup give everyone in the family access to the same content on all their different devices for the same cost, or are you the only one in the family who gets the GlobeReader edition?

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Michael: Mrs. Media Nation and I can both download GlobeReader to our laptops. It’s not the Kindle edition — that’s an entirely different platform.

  7. As a former print journalist who lost her job because of a decline in ad revenue, I feel quite strongly about this issue. And as a blogger who thrives on free access to news content, I feel quite strongly about this issue. I believe the decision to make news content available for free online is perhaps the most crucial factor leading to the social revolution. I’ve added my take on this issue at my own blog, at http://jennamcwilliams.blogspot.com/2009/09/update-on-decline-of-print-media.html . I’d love for you to take a look!

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Jenna: I read your post, and it is interesting and provocative. I agree that charging for ordinary Web access is a loser strategy, which is why I think it makes sense for newspapers to charge for products that offer greater convenience than the Web — print, Kindle, things like GoogleReader (the price is Sunday home delivery), and the like.

      By the way, you wrote that GlobeReader costs $14.95 a month. That’s true of Times Reader, but you can’t get GlobeReader at any price as a standalone product. You’ve got to subscribe.

  8. Al

    Dan: Let us know how it works out. I take ‘G’ on my walk, then read it and do the puzzles over a coffee while taking my mid walk break. That doesn’t sound laptop friendly.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Al: I don’t read while walking! Although I don’t think that’s what you mean. I can tell you that the New York Times crossword puzzle on Times Reader (same as GlobeReader) is better than in print because erasing is so easy.

  9. lkcape

    Canceled Globe as of the summer increase. Only thing I miss is the Weather Almanac.

    Print edition of Globe has become useless, even as a garbage wrapper.

  10. Sometimes people like ads!

    I’ve always enjoyed reading the Sunday Times for its Broadway ads and its travel ads. The Globe is good for its real estate ads (or, was, until the slowdown).

    I purchased a month of the Times Reader a couple months back. I didn’t do any research on it prior to buying a subscription. They advertised it as “just like the print edition”. Um, no, it’s not. It doesn’t have any ads and the pages are not like newspaper pages.

    Most people would think this is an improvement; I do, to an extent.

    Then, again, most people don’t mind getting the “New England edition” of the Times while some of us would much prefer having the NY version at newsstands.

    Where can I access the .pdf versions of both papers?

  11. Paul

    Are you sure that’s 46 bucks A MONTH? Sounds more like the 13-week rate to me. At least that’s about what mine is for 13 weeks.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Paul: Yes, sir. Automatically billed to our credit card. If you check the Globe Web site, you’ll see that the weekly cost is $12.25, which amounts to the same thing.

  12. Arby Writer

    Can’t hide my disappointment that one of our most respected media critics has, in effect, promoted the demise of the paper paper, ultimately leading to the demise of newsgathering in the area.

    Guess we’ll just have to wait for Channel 7’s BREAKING NEWS on the Menino emails or Presidential Signing statements. Dan Hausle can do a great 11:01 pm stand up right in front of City Hall or the White House.

    You may justify the decision as the one the Globe sanctions, Dan, but, you personally weren’t forced to step on the accelerator.

    I hope Ms. Nation makes you take a second look.

  13. Sam Atex

    Dan:

    I get the NY Times kindle edition on a DX (I love the DX and just started reading Lost Symbol on it) and the NYT is a pretty poor imitation of the print edition. We have forgone the delivery of the print edition completely. What is wrong with the Kindle edition? Plenty. There is no hierarchy of stories, what’s important is not shouted at me in big type and often the Kindle edition is missing several stories. Plus who is overseeing this? The other day the Patrick Swayze obit was in the sports section and in the obit section the other day was a murder that occurred in a hotel rather than in the New York section. Stories sometimes are cut off, headlines almost always are if they are too long, and too often cut titles refer to a second picture that is not included in my Kindle edition. And the worst part of the Kindle edition: The wife always would grab the Times Magazine when we divvied up the Sunday Times. Can’t do that anymore.

  14. amused

    Ah, but what about the kiddies? Isn’t paper the only real hope of getting the typical teen intested in the world? They’re not downloading much of anything that’s not on Facebook (or it is MySpace? I forget), iTunes or Youtube, so I find the only way they take a look at what is happening in the world is to leave newspapers around, accidentally left folded to stories that I think might interest them, in the hope they might turn a page or two. For myself, I started reading the newspaper extensively because the
    Evening Globe floated the funnies from section to section with no permanent home, and the index (“Guide to Features”) was often chopped to make room for the Red Sox game in-progress line score from that day’s tilt, so I had to leaf throught the paper to find Mutt and Jeff and started reading the other stuff.

    Electronic delivery, I’m afraid, is just another way to serve people who are already readers; as far-fetched as it may be, newsprint is still the best hope to grab the young. While resistence to price increases has apparently been less than anticipated, the price is now high enough so that potential new readers will resist.

  15. Parsimonious

    Dan:

    Which edition of the Globe is furnished on the Reader…one, two or three star ?

    I’d consider making the Reader switch if I could always get the “late” Globe instead of home delivery of the three-star edition in nearby Peabody (in sight of downtown Boston).

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Parsimonious: Good question, and I don’t know the answer. I think it depends on the time of day that you download it, as it is updated from time to time throughout the day.

  16. Al

    Dan, 11:24 AM
    Thanks. I think you got my meaning. While I can walk and chew gum at the same time, reading a paper and walking, while possible, is a challenge I’d rather not try. The sidewalks have too many cracks, and the drivers, well you need your full attention around them. I fold the paper and stick it in my back pocket to read when I stop. What I meant, was hauling a laptop on my walk so I could read it on my coffee stop was not something I imagined doing. Doing the crossword, as you described, sounds good, though. I’m a print subscriber, so it’s something that’s there for me to try.

  17. Paul in Rhode Island

    We did the same thing cutting back our subscription many a few years back. Even the Sunday paper is really not worth it.

  18. I do a lot of reading on the computer but it’s more scanning than heavy-duty reading. And nothing terribly long. I just don’t find the process as comfortable and it’s more difficult to concentrate on what I’m reading. I like to be able to hold what I’m reading in my hands. Plus, I do love the smell of newsprint in the morning. 😉

  19. rozzie02131

    GlobeReader starts picking up new content after midnight with the editorial secton, G, and other undated stories. News and sports arrive later, just like the deadlines for the printed paper. If they do it right, you should be getting the final edition. When Sen. Kennedy died, a lot of the GlobeReader material didn’t get into the newsprint edition (even the city final) until the next day.

  20. Joe

    Do you miss the maps, charts and other graphics in the Globe? It looks like you’re seeing only a portion of the paper in the Globe Reader.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Joe: Yes, I do miss those things. They are generally on the Web site, but I wouldn’t necessarily know I should go looking for them.

  21. I’m partial to the print editions – I just think they’re so much easier to read than online or e-readers – especially when it comes to long articles.

  22. Gallens

    GlobeReader is available for $4.98 per week, though subscribers to the print version of the paper get it for free. this is what i just read in the November 15, 2009 Mediabuyerplanner.com

    Unsure about the $49. price mentioned above.

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