Big changes (and shrinkage) coming to Boston.com

Sounds like big changes are coming to Boston.com, the free website the Boston Globe launched in the mid-1990s and whose mission has shifted a number of times over the years.

The takeaway from the memo below, from Boston.com general manager Eleanor Cleverly and chief engineering and product officer Anthony Bonfiglio, is that the free site will get smaller (buyouts are being offered) and that the priority will be the paid BostonGlobe.com site. It also sounds like Boston.com is being repositioned as a lifestyle-and-entertainment site in a way that’s not unlike a suggestion I made a year and a half ago at WGBHNews.org.

The news comes just days after Linda Henry, wife of Globe publisher John Henry, was given oversight responsibilities for Boston.com.

I don’t like to see people lose their jobs, but beyond that, the changes might make sense depending on how they play out. There is no reason for Boston.com and the Globe to be in competition with each other; several people left the Globe just last week in response to the latest round of buyouts. If this pushes a few Boston.com readers to pay for the Globe, so much the better. And as a Globe reader, I’m glad to hear that the recently redesigned online sports pages may be a model for the rest of the site.

News of the memo was broken by Carly Carioli on Twitter.

The memo follows.

Hello all,

Boston.com is now more than twenty years old; and this year, Globe.com celebrates its fifth anniversary. These sites are the two most popular digital news and information destinations in New England. As the digital landscape continues to change, we too must change and evolve.

The number one, long-term priority of our organization is to significantly grow our digital subscriber base at Globe.com. In order to do so, we need for our two sites to become more complementary in their day-to-day content and businesses.

Boston.com will continue to be the region’s best free go-to site for things to do, where to live, what to drive, where to work, destinations for travel and so much more, while also evolving to more closely focus on the needs of our audiences in key demographic segments and advertisers who are trying to connect with our audiences. It will be the indispensable guide, resource, and forum for the region. Boston.com will also be a portal to news from The Boston Globe for millions of visitors every month.

The Boston Globe will continue to build on its remarkable Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism and its position as a leader in paid digital subscribers among metro dailies in the country. Globe.com will remain the foremost site for news, information, and journalism from our region. The recent launch of our in-depth, graphically enhanced sports site is just the beginning of what is in store for Globe.com.

There will be a clearer differentiation between the in-depth journalism of Globe.com and the community-centered resources of Boston.com. With resulting efficiencies anticipated, we are offering a voluntary buyout program for those who work in dedicated digital roles across Boston Globe Media Partners. A reorganization of the digital operation is under way. This will create fewer redundancies, increased collaboration, greater efficiency and cost savings across the company.

You will undoubtedly have questions about these changes, particularly how they will personally and professionally impact you. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will host Q&A sessions for departments across Boston Globe Media Partners, beginning this afternoon. We will also address, with more specificity, how this new vision will be reflected in our core digital products.

For those of you who are staying as we move ahead, know that you will be part of a team of smart, collaborative, digital-first thinkers who will generate stories of great relevance and innovative products we can all be proud of. For those who choose to take this buyout, thank you for making our digital experience such an important part of our future.

Eleanor and Anthony

Linda Henry, wife of Globe owner, will oversee Boston.com

Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.
Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.

Well, that was fast. Just a day after Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory announced that chief digital guy David Skok would be leaving later this year, two people who will take over some of his duties have been named. One is a real eye-opener: Linda Pizzuti Henry, wife of Globe owner John Henry, who will oversee Boston.com.

The other is Anthony Bonfiglio, currently the executive director of engineering, who’ll be in charge of engineering, development, product, and design.

When I gave a “Rave” to Skok on Beat the Press Friday, host Emily Rooney asked me if Skok’s departure was related to Linda Henry’s elevation. My honest answer is that I have no idea. It’s something I would certainly like to find out.

It’s also not clear how hands-on Linda Henry intends to be. Eleanor Cleverly, the general manager of Boston.com, has gotten good reviews for stabilizing the site after a rocky transition from being the Globe‘s online home to its current incarnation as a free standalone service. And Cleverly will remain.

It’s way too early to assess what this will all mean, but I’ve heard from a number of insiders that Linda Henry is smart and generally a force for good. Still, it’s an unorthodox move.

The Globe still needs a journalist to replace Skok as managing editor for digital (he’s vice president for digital at Boston Globe Media Partners as well). But since Skok isn’t leaving right away, I suppose that can wait.

What follows is a memo from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of BGMP.

I want to let everyone know that Anthony Bonfiglio will now oversee digital operations, including engineering/development, product, and design across all of BGMP.

Anthony joined us two years ago from Visible Measures, where he was VP of Engineering. Since then, his impact has been immense. He oversaw the rollout of agile software development processes and best practices across the product and engineering teams. As a result, we’ve shortened time-to-market from weeks to multiple releases every week across all teams, creating a predictable and transparent development process. Anthony helped transition much of the business to WordPress and has overseen many of our digital redesigns. He was a key contributor in the launch of Stat.

On the business side, Anthony folded creative services developers into the overall engineering organization and greatly increased their productivity. He also successfully assumed management of our ad operations organization during a critical phase and has since transitioned it back to Advertising.

In short, Anthony has proven himself as a leader who can make a very complex organization faster, better, and more agile. He will continue to report to Wade Sendall.

Brian McGrory informed the newsroom yesterday that David Skok has decided to leave the Globe by the end of the year. Regarding David’s boston.com responsibilities, Eleanor Cleverly will continue day-to-day oversight and management of boston.com, but it will now report to Linda Henry in her current role as Managing Director.

I know I join everyone in wishing David Skok nothing but success and happiness in all his future endeavors and in expressing deep gratitude for all he’s done over the past three years. He has been a driving force in the success we’ve experienced on bostonglobe.com and, with Eleanor and her team, was key to stabilizing boston.com over the past six months. As he transitions out, the leadership of Anthony, Eleanor, and Linda will help us continue to be the region’s leading source of journalism that becomes more relevant and interesting by the hour.