Boston Globe Media eyes expanding into TV, films, broadcast and radio

Public domain photo by Circe Denyer

Boston Globe Media Partners produces more fourth-quarter memos than I realized. I’ve posted most of them as they waft in from trusted sources.

This one strikes me as interesting because it outlines BGMP’s plans “to develop projects for television, film, podcasts and radio, and other media: we seek to amplify the remarkable stories found across all of BGMP’s newsrooms [The Boston Globe, Stat and Boston.com] by giving them new lives in these media formats beyond the print and digital word.”

The memo, written by Dan Krockmalnic, executive vice president for new media and general counsel, points to a few examples — most significantly “Gladiator,” the Spotlight series on Aaron Hernandez that was simultaneously released as a podcast and is now being developed as a television series.

“Not every New Media project can or will have the phenomenal reach of ‘Gladiator,’” Krockmalnic writes, “but success for us is getting our journalism out in new forms that reach new audiences where they are.”

I realize some of these memos are very inside, but that’s part of what Media Nation is for. So here is the full text of Krockmalnic’s message:

New Media Department Update — Q4 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Thanks for reading my Legal Department update a few weeks ago. Today I’m excited to share with you highlights from the work of the New Media Department over our first year as a standalone group within the company.

What is the New Media Department, and why start one?

As others have noted, BGMP has been expanding from a newspaper into a modern multimedia company. Many of the stories told in the journalism the Globe has produced — and those stories from STAT and boston.com, too — are well-suited to be told in other mediums — be they about a larger-than-life personality, a you-can’t-believe-it’s-true crime story, or a world-leading medical breakthrough. Spotlight was a remarkable film that did wonders to establish our name and our brand in this space. That was a film about us; we wanted to lean into the business of regularly making projects that are by us.

And so now, the New Media team leads our efforts to develop projects for television, film, podcasts and radio, and other media: we seek to amplify the remarkable stories found across all of BGMP’s newsrooms by giving them new lives in these media formats beyond the print and digital word. Done right, this increases our exposure and appreciation by reaching new viewers and listeners with our journalism. It also adds separate revenue streams as we seek to diversify our business.

This ground has been trod by others: I look admiringly at the New York Times’ achievements in this space that include many groundbreaking and award-winning documentaries, The New York Times Presents show, the 1619 Project-related media, the scripted Modern Love series, The Fourth Estate documentary series, and their growing podcasting and audio empire.

Who is the New Media Department?

I started off alone on the business side, with Scott Allen in the Globe’s newsroom as an essential partner right from the jump. Linda [Henry, the CEO of Boston Globe Media] had the immediate good sense that the vision required expert help, and so after a lengthy interview process, Ira Napoliello joined us this past March as Director of New Media. Ira was exactly what we needed, having spent the better part of two decades as a film producer in Los Angeles before moving to Boston to be close to his wife’s family.

How do you spend your time?

Our days are split between working with our colleagues at BGMP and dealing with our entertainment partners. They include our agents at UTA and Aevitas; Hollywood film and television studios and streamers; podcasting companies; the creative talent like writers, directors, actors and producers; and talent agents and managers.

Ira joins various newsroom staff meetings and stays in regular contact with editors and reporters to ensure that we are aware of upcoming stories and investigations. He also spends time scouring the Globe archives to try to find stories from the past that might be right for adaptation. As ideas begin to take shape, we schedule and lead an alarming number of internal and external meetings and calls to shepherd the projects from concept to reality.

We listen a lot and we read even more. We’re looking for the stories that make you want to share them with a note: “You need to read this one.” Sometimes they are so unbelievable as to sound… not believable. Think: the comedic tale from Neil Swidey about a 25-year war between two neighbors in Beverly, or Shelley Murphy’s sweeping Finding Lisa piece about a woman’s genealogical search for her family revealing that the man she thought was her father was actually a serial killer.

We don’t need to look far to point to what success looks like: Spotlight’s remarkable Gladiator series on the tragic life of Aaron Hernandez was a groundbreaking six-part series that was smartly coupled with the simultaneous release of a chart-topping podcast series created in partnership with Wondery. The podcast’s runaway success caught the eyes (ears?) of executives at the FX network. And so earlier this summer, FX announced that Gladiator will now have its third life as a scripted, limited-run series on its television and streaming channel as American Sports Story, part of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story franchise. The show is currently being written and will be filming next summer and is set to debut in 2023. Our Spotlight team is working now with the show’s creatives to ensure that the series remains truthful to the original reporting.

By the end of its run, Gladiator will have led to thousands of new Globe subscriptions, over 10 million podcast downloads, and its own season-run show. That means subscription, advertising, licensing, and production revenue — a perfect example of what we aspire to when we talk about a modern media company. And all founded on the truly exceptional journalism for which we’re known.

Not every New Media project can or will have the phenomenal reach of Gladiator, but success for us is getting our journalism out in new forms that reach new audiences where they are. We succeed when we make smart calls on projects: as Brian has put it, each such project is a bit of a lottery ticket, and we’re looking to tip the odds in our favor with decisions that allow us to de-risk our investment — just like the gang behind the Cash WinFall scheme did with the Massachusetts State Lottery in the remarkable 2011 story from Andres Estes and Scott Allen.

What have you accomplished so far?

We’ve had some early successes in our first year:

We are thrilled to be finalizing an agreement with one of the most prestigious streamers to produce two parallel projects — a multi-part documentary and a multi-episode podcast series — about a well-known Boston true-crime story. The documentary will be directed by an award-winning documentarian and the podcast will be the streamer’s first-ever foray into original investigative journalism. More to come on this soon.

We helped close a deal to license STAT’s first feature-length documentary, Augmented, to GBH’s Nova to distribute and air. Augmented tells the story of Hugh Herr’s new way of performing amputations that will allow bionic limbs to move and feel like the real thing, decades after his own legs were amputated in a mountain-climbing accident.

In the “older” media realm of book deals, we are working with Black Dog & Leventhal to publish a book on the history of the Boston Red Sox as told through the Boston Globe. (Here’s their analogous book with the New York Times and the Yankees; fortunately, it hasn’t needed much updating in the last 20 years…).

A few other stories we are actively working to develop include:

The murder of Tiffany Moore: 12-year-old Moore was a victim of a 1988 gang crossfire shooting. Her death became a symbol of the depravity of gang violence and led to the conviction of the wrong suspect thanks to overzealous, unethical law enforcement that wrongfully charged and prosecuted Sean Drumgold. Globe reporter Dick Lehr’s work led to his exoneration decades later. We are working with Dick to revisit the crime with an eye to something more: identifying the real killer and getting justice for Tiffany.

The Boy in the River: in April 1972, 13-year-old Danny Croteau was found dead in the Chicopee River. He was killed by blunt force trauma and left floating, face down, in the water. His murder was unsolved for almost 50 years. In May 2021, former Catholic priest Richard Lavigne confessed to the murder from his death bed. We will work with Novel, the award-winning and London-based podcasting company, to produce a documentary podcast featuring our own Kevin Cullen that explains how crucial institutions including the police, prosecutors and the Church failed Danny and allowed Lavigne literally to get away with murder.

Sparkies: the largest arson ring in U.S. history — including Boston police and firefighters — set over 160 fires in the early 1980s in the stunningly mistaken belief that these public dangers would somehow convince the city to restore cuts to police and fire services. One arsonist, a Boston Housing cop who called himself “Mr. Flare” to the media, threatened to keep setting fires “till all deactivated police and fire equipment is brought back.”

Camp Q: Inspired by Zoe Greenberg’s viral story from this summer, we are developing a character-driven scripted comedy about an eventful couple of days at a New England summer camp where seemingly everything went wrong.

We work on each project to ensure that, whatever the medium the story is told in, it is worthy of having the Boston Globe Media name attached to it. As we’re always on the lookout for new stories, please drop us a line with any interesting ideas that you feel could make for a great project. We’re excited to make it happen.

Happy holidays,
Dan

Dan Krockmalnic
Executive Vice President, New Media & General Counsel
Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC

 

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