New GlobeReader adds puzzle and is puzzling

The Boston Globe is taking its GlobeReader product in a different direction, and I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense.

First, the good news: it’s gotten better. GlobeReader now includes a feature that lets you copy or e-mail a link, just like the parent company’s Times Reader. It’s also added the crossword puzzle, comics, a weather map and TV listings.

Now for the not-so-good. Previously GlobeReader was free to all print subscribers, including those who took home delivery only on Sundays. Moreover, you couldn’t have it for any price unless you were at least a Sunday subscriber. Given that the Globe reportedly earns some two-thirds of its revenues from the Sunday edition, the strategy seemed like a reasonably smart way of preserving the Sunday paper.

The new GlobeReader, by contrast, is available without any home delivery at all. The cost: $4.98 a week. But if you want to get it for free, you need to take home delivery of the print edition seven days a week. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay something. (I called a very polite clerk at the Globe who struggled to explain what the cost of GlobeReader would be for Sunday subscribers. It was nominal, but it wasn’t free.)

In other words, the Globe has given me a choice that it doesn’t want me to make. Several months ago, we switched to Sunday-only delivery, supplemented by GlobeReader the other six days. If we stick with Sundays-only, we’ll pay extra for GlobeReader. We could resume seven-day print delivery — but we’ve already decided we can’t afford $50 a month. Or we could pay $21 or $22 a month for GlobeReader access only. That couldn’t possibly be good for the Globe, since GlobeReader is practically ad-free.

(Conversely, this may make sense as we move into what may prove to be the post-advertising age. With no printing or distribution costs, GlobeReader is pure revenue.)

I should note, too, that the New York Times has long made Times Reader available for free to Sunday-only subscribers like us. Perhaps that’s going to change as well.

It strikes me that the new strategy, rather than shoring up the Sunday edition, will simply encourage customers to sign up for GlobeReader seven days a week — or read the paper for free at Boston.com. Although we hear from time to time that that may be coming to an end as well.

Like all newspapers, the first imperative for the Globe is to survive, and to make enough money to support a robust journalistic mission. I’m not sure this is the way to do it. But I guess we’ll find out.

15 thoughts on “New GlobeReader adds puzzle and is puzzling

  1. Al

    I guess the didn’t like the idea that people dropped the 7 day subscription in lieu of a Sunday only subscription with access to free GlobeReader. They must hope that those who have made the switch will not drop the whole deal with the new charges.

  2. Newshound

    If the first objective of The Globe is to save the newsroom and make money it will almost surely go out of business.

    Maybe there is a better way to deliver but if there is no press room and no delivery within a price range that Media Nation can afford, the ball game is over for this newspaper.

    There are ways to be creative and innovative and to exploit virgin territory and such was the successful insight of Ted Turner when he inherited a number of billboards in Georgia situated in snake infested underbrush. He capitalized with taking his advertising to satellite television revolutionizing a new and tremendously successful industry.

    And, of course, Henry Ford also spearheaded tremendous revolution which seriously decreased the US horse population.

    Generally, though, horse farmers didn’t succeed long term in manufacturing automobiles and the Globe likewise may not succeed in the next evolution. Its best bet is to continue to produce a darn good newspaper printed on newsprint and deliver with attractively priced advertising and circulation that even people of very meager means can afford and will buy, aside from Media Nation’s more lucrative financial situation.

    Those few horse farmers remaining may be doing fairly well, but in all cases so far better than if they were trying to manufacture diesel engines, and the same principle almost always applies in other business, too.

  3. Ron Newman

    So what is the cost of GlobeReader for a Sunday-only paper subscriber? I could not find this info on the Globe’s website.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Ron: As I wrote, I called the subscription department and got a very confusing answer. That’s why I didn’t report a number.

  4. mike_b1

    GlobeReader is pure revenue (and I think you mean “profit”) only if there is no labor cost for writing, editing and laying out stories, and then pushing them live.

  5. jim

    I’m a Sunday subscriber and I just deleted the Globe Reader from my computer. I actually prefer to read the news on the regular Boston.com site anyway so it’s no great loss. I also have the NYTimes Reader, but I rarely use it.

  6. Newshound

    Dan – divesting yourself of money to buy something of desire should be so simple that it would be almost silent.

    You shouldn’t have to call. If anyone half as smart as you is confused it is too complicated.

    Have you ever looked at the advertising rates based on volume, frequency, and numerous other variables and then attempt to compare the cost effectiveness of that with other alternative advertising opportunities? Perhaps not, but just a glance at their “Media Package” may reveal the cause of a prospective migraine headache.

    Preparing tax returns should be simple. But buying a news product should require virtually no thought.

  7. LFNeilson

    Ya-but — can the paperboy toss GlobeReader and land it on your porch roof with a loud THUNK a half-hour before your alarm clock goes off? Your dog knows the difference.

    I believe there is some value to publishers holding to old standards like good reporting, community leadership and belief in your product.

    I hate to think that I am in the swirl of a drain.

    Newshound: Horse farmers will always keep horses. They love them, and they also own trucks. Newshounds should have such dedication.

  8. mike from norwell

    Dan, get the feeling you’re a victim of your own success. Wondering what the parallel universe would be if you hadn’t posted about your original gambit.

    BTW, boston.com is still free for now. Globe Reader is OK, but requires a computer in any event.

  9. rozzie02131

    Here’s the answer I got to “how much will it cost.” For any weekday when you don’t get the paper edition delivered, the GlobeReader is 25¢ per day. So for Sunday-only customers, GlobeReader access is $1.50 a week extra. For Thursday-Sunday home delivery customers, the GlobeReader is 75¢ a week. I tried to find out how much Sunday would cost for weekday-delivery customers, but I felt sorry for the poor guy on the phone who was learning all these rates for the first time.

    They’re also running a half-price, 12 week introductory offer, so chop those prices in half to start.

    The full price for Sunday home delivery in the metro plus GlobeReader, Dan’s (and my own) original plan, will be $5 a week, which coincidentally is the same price they charge for the GlobeReader for non subscribers. In effect, you are getting the Sunday paper delivered at no extra charge. Dan, there’s your potential ad-rich Sunday paper business model.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      Rozzie: That’s what I was told, too. But the woman I talked with seemed so unsure of herself that I decided not to use what she gave me — especially since it sounded like they were going to throw in the Sunday paper for free, which made no sense. I guess she was right all along. Thanks for confirming.

      Essentially they’ve flipped their model. At first you got GlobeReader for free if you wanted the Sunday paper. Now you get the Sunday paper for free if you want GlobeReader.

  10. Newshound

    Newshound loves computers, internet, blogs but still cherishes the old fashioned newspaper printed with all the ads and all the news, even trivial news produced on old fashioned newsprint that is budgeted and priced so it reaches out to essentially everybody.

    So, Larz, sort of like the horse farmers who love horses and own trucks, I like newspapers and own computers.

    And, I too, like you, hate to think I am in the swirl of a drain.

    Larz, I think you made comparison to buggy whips in making a point on a blog a couple of months ago so to avoid using your line even though common expression, I used the tremendous originality of going straight to the horse. The front part of the horse!

  11. Newshound

    The U. S. horse population in 1900 was about 20 million with about 3 million in the cities. If we were still using horses today, based on the presence of automobiles and trucks, the manure in downtown Boston is predicted to be more than five feet deep most of the time and the stench overwhelming.

    However, every U. S. auto company has gone broke except for one. Packard, Studebaker, General Motors, etc.

    The Wright brothers didn’t do the finance investing world good either. The airline industry has not returned a profit in the aggregate since Kitty Hawk.

    Norfolk Southern, Burlington Northern and other railroads stuck to the ground. They’d be broke too, had they tried to put wings on their locomotives. Instead, they stuck to their own business which they knew and understood.

    None of the old ice harvesting businesses have succeeded in refrigeration either.

    So, at least I wonder about the long term success of The Globe exiting the traditional newspaper and inventing a successful and profitable model essentially from the ground up.

    In 100 years we’ll have to check in on Google, too, and see how it has done over the long haul and if they are exiting the Internet and trying to invent something new.

    There is evolution with the same industry. IBM is an example moving along within the evolution and technology of business machines but the function remains the same, just the same as railroads utilizing more efficient locomotives

  12. rozzie02131

    I think there’s a good reason for the Globe’s pricing, having to do with the way the Audit Bureau of Circulation has changed the way they count subscribers. Check this article for details. Formerly a newspaper could only count PDF-type replica readers as electronic subscribers. Now products like GlobeReader count. But they need to charge something in order to add a reader to their pile of subscribers. So with the old method (Sunday subscriber = free weekday access) they couldn’t count weekday readers. Now, with a small charge for daily GlobeReaders, we count as subscribers. (I’m not sure how happy Macy’s is with that, since GlobeReaders don’t see their ads, but that’s the way the rules work for now.)

    Plus they get an extra $1.50 a week out of us.

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