Thinking through the Globe’s multi-site strategy

BG frontThis post has also been published at WGBH News.

After I posted an item yesterday speculating that The Boston Globe’s lower paywall might eventually lead to the end of the paper’s two-site strategy, Jack Gately tweeted at me that the Globe actually seems to be going in the opposite direction. With the addition of its BetaBoston site, unveiled on Monday, the paper now has three.

And that’s just the beginning. Soon the Globe will launch a separate site for all things Catholic, in part so that it can showcase its prized new religion reporter, John Allen. Incumbent religion reporter Lisa Wangsness will continue. And yesterday editor Brian McGrory announced that Boston.com community engagement editor and former metro editor Teresa Hanafin will edit the new venture.

So is this a splintering of the Globe’s identity? I don’t think so. And today’s front page may serve as a good indication of how the different sites will work together. The lead story, on private repo companies that are using license-plate scanners, is from BetaBoston, and was written by Shawn Musgrave. He, in turn, is the editor of MuckRock, an independent public-records project that is affiliated with the Globe. (Here’s a 2012 interview I did with MuckRock founder Michael Morisy for the Nieman Journalism Lab. Morisy is also the editor of BetaBoston.)

What the Globe seems to be embracing is a hub-and-spoke model. The Globe, in print and online, is the hub. Spokes reach out to specialty projects such as BetaBoston, the entertainment site BDCWire (part of the Globe’s Radio BDC project), the religion site and whatever else may be in the works. It’s similar to how The New York Times handles Dealbook, or how The Washington Post interacts with Wonkblog, both before and after the departure of Ezra Klein. The idea is to foster semi-free-standing projects that generate a lot of content, some of which migrates along the spokes and into the hub.

That’s quite different from the business strategy of offering the paid BostonGlobe.com site and the free Boston.com. Those are intended as two entirely different ventures, and McGrory’s memo yesterday made it clear that they are going to be separated even more going forward.

7 thoughts on “Thinking through the Globe’s multi-site strategy

  1. Ted McEnroe

    Add another element to this. Click on the Musgrave story on BostonGlobe.com and you get the first 6 paragraphs of it, before you must click through to BetaBoston.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Ted: That’s odd. When I click, it takes me directly to the story at BetaBoston.

      1. Ted McEnroe

        Ahhh, I know why. I accessed the story through the Boston Globe headlines email. (I see the campaign tag on my URL.) Makes sense that they wouldn’t want me to go straight to BetaBoston from there. Actually proves there’s some user experience thinking going into all this.

  2. Jerry Ackerman

    I think we’re seeing the “long tail” wagging here. Experience has shown that niche sites do very well at attracting passionate followers and holding on to them. If the Globe is making mistakes here, well, that’s how we all learn. I worked once for a publisher who, after days when everything seemed to go wrong, would remark, “We have 365 days a year to experiment.”

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Teresa: I’m embarrassed. Glenn is a distinguished Northeastern graduate. But will he continue to do that now that he’s been sports editor of Boston.com?

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