The Boston Globe’s new morning newsletter joins an already crowded field

The Boston Globe’s free daily newsletter for college students and young professionals, The B-Side, made its debut this morning. Like similar offerings, it’s light and breezy, with an emphasis on stories aimed at appealing to the demo (“Does your employer pay for your MBTA pass?”) as well as on things to do.

The B-Side is joining a crowded field of similar newsletters from Axios Boston, WBUR, GBH News, the Boston Herald and 6AM City — and that’s not even getting into the political newsletters from Politico, State House News Service and CommonWealth Magazine. (Have I missed any? I hope not.)

What I’m talking about here is a certain type of newsletter. The Globe has multiple newsletters already, and so do the other news organizations I mentioned. It’s a matter of tone and emphasis, heavy on emoticons and bullet points, aimed at engaging an audience that might have never considered buying a digital newspaper subscription or tuning in to a public radio station. My students and I got an early peek last month; my reaction then and now is that it’s interesting, like its competitors, but that I’m not in the target audience.

Here’s a memo passed along by a trusted source from Andrew Grillo, the Globe’s director of new product and general manager of The B-Side:

Hi all,

We are excited to announce the launch of The B-Side, a new email and social-only product geared towards informing and entertaining new audiences. The B-Side’s focus is hyperlocal and will provide curated, authentic and relatable content that reimagines how local news is conveyed to the next generation of Bostonians.

As Boston’s population of university students and young professionals continues to grow, it is essential to evolve our coverage to meet this demographic where they are most engaged. The publication will focus on mobile-first formats, and will accompany its weekday newsletter with vertical video explainers, swipeable stories, and creator content.

The B-Side joins a growing portfolio of products that have launched out of BGMP’s innovation portal — the idea was crowned Innovation Week Champion in the Q4 2021. [BGMP stands for Boston Globe Media Partners.] Since inception, The B-Side has been refined and developed across all departments including marketing, revenue, editorial, and finance. Through this iterative approach, we have created a unique editorial product designed to engage the company’s future readership, and provide new revenue streams for the organization. This project showcases Boston Globe Media’s commitment to evolution and investment in new initiatives, and we are grateful of the internal support this project has received to achieve launch within one year.

Editorially, the team consists of three talented journalists. The content team is led by Emily Schario, a GBH alum and creative storyteller with expertise unpacking quintessential Boston stories across text and vertical video. Emily is joined by Multimedia Producer Katie Cole, a former BGM Audience Development team member, who runs the project’s social media and audience development strategy. The B-Side is edited and guided by Kaitlyn Johnston, one of the region’s most talented and forward-thinking editors.

We’d like to thank the organization’s support of this initiative, particularly the Senior Leadership Team who has guided this endeavor from inception to launch.

You can sign up here, and follow along at @bostonbside on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.

Onwards,
Andrew

What the sale of Axios may mean for Boston news consumers

See correction below.

What will the sale of Axios mean for Boston news consumers? It’s too early to tell. But there are a couple of intriguing tidbits that emerged from the news that the digital startup will be acquired by Cox Enterprises for $525 million, a story first reported by Ben Mullin of The New York Times.

First, the sale appears to be good news for Axios Local. According to Rick Edmonds of Poynter Online, Cox isn’t looking to walk away from the local newsletters it’s been building out in order to concentrate on national politics. Instead, Cox wants to accelerate the growth of Axios Local. “Our goal of 100 cities is in reach,” publisher Nick Johnston told Edmonds. “I have a list of 384 metropolitan areas in my office, and we cross them off one by one.”

Second, Cox already owns is a minority owner of WFXT-TV (Channel 25) in Boston, the home of Boston 25 News. Two months ago, Axios launched a Boston newsletter produced by veteran journalists Mike Deehan and Steph Solis. Although I’m in no position to know what the strategy will be moving forward, it’s not difficult to imagine Axios Boston amplifying big stories from Boston 25, or featuring Deehan and Solis on its newscasts.

Of course, you should always follow the money. Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and John Harris never had an opportunity to cash in after they left The Washington Post to found Politico in 2007. VandeHei and Allen were the marquee names who left Politico in 2016 to start Axios (Harris stayed behind). Monday was their big payday.

By the way, Ellen Clegg and I interviewed Deehan recently on the “What Works” podcast, so please give it a listen.

Correction/clarification. Axios has been acquired by Cox Enterprises, which spun off its television and radio stations to the hedge fund Apollo Global Management a couple of years ago. Those stations now do business as Cox Media Group. But wait: Cox Enterprises continues to hold an ownership stake in Cox Media Group, including Boston 25. Earlier this year, it was announced that Cox Media would sell Boston 25, but it’s unclear whether Cox Enterprises would keep its minority stake. So what I said above could still happen, but it’s a lot more complicated than I had realized.

Mike Deehan of Axios Boston talks about the debut of the mobile-first Axios Boston

Mike Deehan

On this week’s “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with Mike Deehan, a savvy Boston journalist who is part of the new Axios Boston newsletter. Mike’s colleague at Axios Boston, Steph Solis, was scheduled to join the discussion but was out reporting on reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Deehan and Solis have been reporting on Massachusetts news and politics for a number of years. Mike was formerly digital content editor for State House News Service, editor of Massterlist, and worked for the Dorchester Reporter. Steph worked for Masslive and was an immigration reporter for the USA Today Network. The Axios Boston debut was newsy and a perfect smart-phone scroll for subway reading, whether the MBTA is running or not.

Steph Solis

I’ve got a Quick Take on the soaring cost of newsprint. Print is still important to the bottom line at most newspapers, and this turns out to be one more blow to local news. Ellen looks at a new rural news network being set up through the Institute of Nonprofit News.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.

Axios Boston enters the crowded local newsletter fray with a solid debut

The Axios Boston newsletter made a solid debut today with the help of Gov. Charlie Baker, who sat down with Mike Deehan for an interview about his priorities during the final weeks of the legislative session.

Steph Solis has an update on the override of Baker’s veto of a bill that would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Also online are the controversy over our racist state flag, the state of tourism, a decline in college enrollments and, from Maxwell Millington, guides to drinking (always welcome) and AirBNBs. In addition, there are sponsored-content ads from CEO Action for Racial Equity and from Axios itself. The newsletter is free.

I’m sure we’ll see more variety in the days ahead. For one thing, there’s no round-up of news items from other media outlets, which is a standard feature at (for example) Axios Denver. Overall, though, it was substantive and entertaining, with lots of Axios’ patented indents and bullet points, intended to — well, I’m actually not sure what they’re intended to do.

Axios invited mockery last year when, in announcing that it would expand its Axios Local network, published a story headlined “Axios vows to save local news.” (I wrote about it for GBH News.) Axios Boston isn’t going to do that. But it’s a good subway read — it’s designed for mobile — and may connect with younger professionals who aren’t currently tuned in to local coverage of any kind.

Axios Boston is elbowing its way into a pretty crowded newsletter environment in Greater Boston. Other general-interest morning offerings include “The Wake Up,” from GBH News; “WBUR Today,” from you-know-who; and “BosToday,” from 6AM Cities. Political newsletters include “Massachusetts Playbook,” from Politico; “Masster List,” from State House News Service; and “The Daily Download,” from CommonWealth Magazine.

Oddly, The Boston Globe doesn’t have a human-generated morning newsletter despite a pretty wide array covering everything from the day’s headlines to baseball. The Boston Herald offers Morning Memo.

A programming note: Ellen Clegg and I have scheduled Deehan and Solis for an upcoming episode of our “What Works” podcast. Listen for it!