By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Boston Globe will need creative thinking to find and keep a video audience

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Globe will launch a five-days-a-week local newscast on New England Sports Network sometime this spring.

The half-hour program, “Boston Globe Today,” will comprise a more or less traditional mix of news, sports and entertainment on Monday through Thursday as well as a sports roundtable on Friday. The anchor will be Segun Oduolowu except on Friday, when the sports discussion will be helmed by Globe columnist Chris Gasper. The program will be carried live on NESN, the Globe’s website and mobile app, and the NESN 360 app.

The show marks a significant move into video, something that Globe owners John and Linda Henry have long wanted to do. I suspect, though, that they’re going to have to make some major adjustments along the way. The audience for local TV newscasts is aging at least as rapidly as print newspaper readers, and a 5 p.m. program is going to skew even older. Globe executives need to think about how they’re going to find and keep an audience.

First, NESN makes sense only because the Henrys’ Fenway Sports Group is the majority owner. It’s a sports channel, and you tune in to watch the Red Sox, the Bruins and the Beanpot so you can see the Northeastern men’s and women’s hockey teams triumph over their rivals. It would take a whole lot of rebranding to get anyone to think that NESN is about anything other than sports. At least they’ll be able to promote the newscast on Bruins and Red Sox games, although the Sox may be lucky to draw an audience in the high double digits this year.

And yes, the newscast will also be shown on the Globe’s and NESN’s digital platforms, but that’s really not enough. At a minimum, “Boston Globe Today” should have a robust YouTube presence where viewers can watch live or at a time of their choosing. Maybe they’re already thinking that way.

Second, a comprehensive half-hour newscast is simply not the way that younger audiences consume video journalism anymore. Video stories need to be broken out and run separately so that people can watch them on their phones while they’re on the train, waiting for a cup of coffee or whatever.

Take a look at NJ Spotlight News, a nonprofit digital news organization that provides insider coverage of public policy and politics in New Jersey. Several years ago Spotlight merged with NJ PBS. Now they continue to publish news online and have added a half-hour newscast on television, web and YouTube; stories from the newscast are posted individually.

“Boston Globe Today” sounds like an interesting idea, but it will work only if the Globe regards it as an experiment and is prepared to make changes along the way.

Oh, and I did I mention that both of Northeastern’s hockey teams won the Beanpot?

Below is an email a trusted source passed along that Globe Media CEO Linda Henry sent to the staff earlier today. I’m sorry I don’t have it in text form, but this ought to be readable.

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1 Comment

  1. Mark Laurence

    So the Globe is going to go up against the established 5PM news teams at channels 4, 5, 7, 10, and 25, plus the big news hours on WBUR and WGBH? This sounds about as perilous as channel 5 deciding to start a newspaper. I wish them luck and success, but maybe the Globe could find a better use for this portion of the $45/week they say they’re charging subscribers.

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