Beginning of the end for the Globe’s two-site strategy?

320px-Twenty_dollar_billsBoston Globe editor Brian McGrory made a series of announcements earlier today about changes and appointments inside the Globe newsroom. His memo is online at Poynter. The most important news is that the Globe’s digital paywall is being lowered to allow access to 10 free articles a month before non-subscribers are asked to pay.

The spin on McGrory’s announcement is that this represents some sort of 180-degree turn. It doesn’t. It is a significant adjustment, but the Globe has been tweaking the paywall ever since its debut in the fall of 2011. About a year ago, for instance, I wrote a story for the Nieman Journalism Lab that the Globe was tightening up on social sharing in the hopes of persuading more people to pay. Now it’s moving in the other direction. But mid-course corrections have been part of the strategy from the beginning.

Not to get ahead of the story, but I wonder if the Globe’s move toward a much looser paywall might lead to the eventual abandonment of its two-site strategy — the paid BostonGlobe.com site and the free Boston.com. Yes, McGrory also announced some new appointments for Boston.com. But what’s now Boston.com content could be folded into BostonGlobe.com as free, online-only content that supplements the paid material. Newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have large amounts of online-only content but only one site.

A number of people I’ve talked with find the two-site strategy confusing. I have a more basic complaint: as a paying subscriber, I don’t think I should have to go to Boston.com for anything, whether it be Red Sox items or lottery numbers. It should all be on the site that I’m paying for.

McGrory’s announcement signals not a revolution but an evolution. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

Update: Gin Dumcius points out that McGrory’s memo says the two sites will remain separate and may even compete with each other. I want to emphasize that I don’t think the end of the two-site strategy is coming any time soon. I just think the machinery has been set in motion so that it might eventually make sense.

15 thoughts on “Beginning of the end for the Globe’s two-site strategy?

  1. Patricia Bennett

    As an 7 day/week subscriber, I must say Boston.com is just awful. It’s like a wasted domain that someone could do something really intersting with, but alas is being wasted. I wonder how many people listen to the radio via Boston.com? My other issue is with the online version of the daily Boston Globe. If I’m reading the paper and wish to look online for the article, it can take some time to find it. The layout of the online version seems to change during the day on top of that. Granted, news happens 24/7 but I was under the assumption the online version of the daily Globe would have been set up similar to the printed version. I even had to call once to find a story.

    Hopefully there will be improvements. They need to either improve Boston.com remarkably, or let someone else have go.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Patricia: There is a “Today’s Paper” option at BostonGlobe.com, although I sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t include everything in the print edition.

    2. stevegarfield

      My issue too. When I want to share a story I’ve just read in the newspaper, I have a heck of a time finding it. Article titles are changed. Authors don’t tweet out stories. There’s almost no way of finding Boston Globe Articles online. I usually end up Googling the main subject to see if it pops up in a search. Then when that fails I’ll take a photo with my iPhone and share that.

      Some Globe writers are getting better about tweeting out links to stories. I hope more do this.

    3. Dan Kennedy Post author

      Oh, and another thing, @Patricia: Don’t you be dissing RadioBDC! It’s not my music, but I think my old friend Henry Santoro and company are doing a great job.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Doug: Replica editions. Ugh. What some of us want is today’s paper but repurposed in a way that truly takes advantage of online. The New York Times Web app is a long step in the right direction, but it’s not perfect. The Globe’s Today’s Paper is pretty good, but it needs tending, as well as a commitment to posting all the day’s print-edition content there — including, as I’ve said before, corrections.

  2. Doug Most (@GlobeDougMost)

    Dan I was replying to that specific reader, who seemed to have a desire for easy reading of the paper online, I understand your larger points, but I was speaking just to that reader’s frustration.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      Shouldn’t you be selling some books?🙂 Congratulations on the great reception “The Race Underground” has gotten.

  3. timcroes

    As a 33 year old NU graduate, I really appreciate what RadioBDC is doing and totally agree about Boston.com being wasted, I read the Globe 7 days a week but would never read it online. I love the feel of a newspaper in my hands

  4. Andre Mayer

    The boston.com iPad app seems to have disappeared. Apart from the epaper, there is no Globe app (though the website is accessible by browser). All this seems odd as not long ago boston.com was a very popular site – I’m surprised the Globe, traditionally advertising-driven, couldn’t find a way to monetize that. This failure – inability to fund web presence through ads – seems to me to be the real crisis. Didn’t it used to be that ads paid for content and subscriptions paid for production and delivery?

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Andre: The Boston.com iPhone app still works. Boston magazine recently reported that the Globe is in the midst of a total rethink for Boston.com, and that it might be entirely mobile. As for whatever happened to the ad-driven model, well, some stuff has happened during the past 20 years.

  5. careygoldberg

    Dan, I have exactly the same complaint: I pay for BostonGlobe.com, I want all the Globe’s substantive content to be there. I need to watch the Globe’s health coverage, and it makes me crazy that I have to go to boston.com for the Daily Dose and Carolyn Johnson’s excellent science blog. Also, not to be a cynic, but is 60,000 paying users really a success???? Seems to me like the circulation of a suburban weekly…

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Carey: On the one hand, those are 60,000 paying readers for whom you don’t incur the costs of printing and distribution — so it’s pure revenue. On the other hand, they’re paying far less than print subscribers. Still, it’s a substantial share of the Globe’s paid circulation.

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