Five takeaways from the likely end to the Globe‘s crisis

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

First came the news that The Boston Globe’s previous distributor has re-entered the picture. Next came an apology by Globe publisher John Henry. And with those two steps, the Globe seems to have essentially brought its week-and-a-half-old home-delivery crisis to an end, even though problems will likely linger into next week. Here are five takeaways.

1. Management is convinced that the problem has been solved. Henry’s apology is proof of that. It’s a basic principle of public relations that you don’t bring out the Big Dog until you believe the crisis is under control. Henry’s statement wasn’t risk-free—the previous vendor, Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, won’t be back on the job until Sunday or Monday, and it’s still unclear how quickly delivery service can be fully restored. The new vendor, ACI Media Group, will share the work, and needless to say it has yet to prove itself. But there’s no longer any talk of having to wait four to six months.

2. John Henry is really, really sorry. Yes, his apology is a little bit defensive (blaming previous ownership for getting rid of the in-house delivery system) and a little bit geeky (no, we don’t care if the paper is “6 inches to the right of the first step”). But he struck me as genuinely, truly contrite that he had let down his customers. “I want to personally apologize to every Boston Globe subscriber who has been inconvenienced,” he wrote. “We recognize that you depend on us, and that we’ve let you down.”

3. There could be negative repercussions for the newsroom. Both Henry and chief executive Mike Sheehan have said that though the main impetus for switching carriers was to improve service, they were looking to save money as well. Sheehan has said Henry intended to reinvest those savings in the Globe. If that money fails to materialize, it could mean further cuts in a newsroom that was shrunk by some 45 positions just a few months ago.

4. Print still matters. During the past week and a half I’ve heard numerous suggestions that the Globe switch to online-only distribution—and even a few conspiracy theories suggesting that Henry and company had deliberately botched home delivery in order to smooth the way for such a move. (But couldn’t they switch to home delivery via black helicopter?) In fact, the Globe and nearly all other newspapers still make most of their money from print. “Subscription revenue is going to be the primary source of revenue in the future for newspapers,” Henry wrote. And though the Globe has had some success in persuading people to pay for digital subscriptions, print remains a lot more lucrative.

5. People really care about their newspaper. In an era when you often hear about how irrelevant newspapers as standalone products have become, it’s got to be heartening to see how much people care about their daily newspaper and how upset they are when it doesn’t arrive. It’s not so much print-versus-digital; it’s the continued viability of newspapers, whether in print or online, as living, breathing voices of the community. The future—and even the present—may be articles disaggregated from their sources and repackaged by Facebook, Apple News, and the like. For now, though, newspapers still matter.

6 thoughts on “Five takeaways from the likely end to the Globe‘s crisis

  1. Kit Nichols

    It hasn’t ended in Medford Square. We are on day 11 of NO paper at all. Take away number 6 is that if you screw up badly enough so that your customer service site crashes and your phone lines are swamped, you can avoid an embarrassing number of subscription cancellations because no one can get through to cancel.

  2. Bill Schweber

    The Globe “delivery reboot” has a long way to go. I received a copy at each end of my driveway here in Sharon (we have a quarter-round driveway since we are a corner lot). Problem is I have never ever subscribed to the Globe, and as far as I know, none of my nearby neigbors on either side or across the stree do so, either. If I had seen the delivery car I would have told them, but I didn’t see them drop off the paper, except it was sometime after 7:30am.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Bill: The old vendor won’t be back on the job until Sunday or Monday. At best, I would imagine service returning to normal around the middle of next week.

      1. Bill Schweber

        All I know is that are two people in my area who were probably checked off as “delivered and done” but who actually didn’t get their papers today!

  3. Fred Weissman

    While I have not gotten the Globe on time since the initial switch took place, I have been able to use the Globe’s Customer Service smartphone app to avoid long hold times on the phone. I entered the fact that I didn’t get a paper and was given a choice to have it redelivered or to receive a credit. Each time I requested to have it redelivered and had the paper at my home in Newton by noon. Today however, there was no option to get the paper redelivered. Credit only. That tells me they’ve given up even trying to get the papers to Newton. On Sunday, or Monday at the latest, we’ll be switched back to the previous company. In the meantime, my NY Times hasn’t shown up either, and I have to phone in to have it redelivered. Now that they’ll both be delivered by the same person, I’ll have both my papers at the same time. Or not.

  4. Bill Schweber

    I’d say they still have a long way to go. I just received the Sunday Globe–except I am not a subscriber. This means that some REAL subscriber is going without.
    I can’t believe the advertisers are OK with this. Will there be a huge number of costly advertiser “make goods” they will have to do? I suspect so, but the Globe will bury the cost of this somewhere as “miscellaneous.”

Comments are closed.