Tag Archives: Boston Globe

What we know about the sale of the Boston Globe’s HQ

Update: I was so excited to get a copy of Sheehan’s announcement in my inbox that I didn’t check to see whether the Globe had the story. They did. Here it is.

The Boston Globe has found a buyer for its headquarters at 135 Morrissey Blvd. The announcement was made in an email to the staff Friday night from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners. (Thanks, source! You are a prince or princess among men or women.) Here’s Sheehan:

Just wanted you to know that BGMP has entered into an agreement to sell our headquarters at 135 Morrissey Boulevard. We have also entered into a confidentiality agreement with the buyer, so I can offer no details about the transaction at this time. This is just the beginning of the process; I’ll keep you updated as it proceeds.

Have a great weekend.

Mike

I tweeted out the news a little while ago, but it’s raised more questions than answers among people who don’t follow this stuff obsessively. So here’s a bit of background.

1. The Globe‘s editorial and business operations are moving downtown, into rented office space at 53 State St. The target date for the move is January 1, but I’m guessing that will prove to be ambitious.

2. The printing operations are moving to a new facility in Taunton.

3. This is a true fact:

4. In 2013 John Henry bought the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and the Morrissey Boulevard headquarters from the New York Times Company for a total of $70 million. He later sold the T&G for an undisclosed amount that has been estimated at somewhere between $7 million and $19 million. In 2014, the Globe reported that the Morrissey Boulevard property might be worth somewhere between $50 million and $70 million. So it is likely that Henry will have ended up getting the Globe for free. On the other hand, he’s losing money—or, as Globe editor Brian McGrory put it recently in a memo announcing buyouts, “The Globe’s numbers aren’t as good as our words (or photos, videos, and graphics).”

5. As Sheehan wrote, the identity of the new owner of the Morrissey Boulevard property and his intentions are not being announced at this time. So here’s some speculation from me and some sharp observations from Bill Forry, editor of the Dorchester Reporter.

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.

Digital guy David Skok to leave the Boston Globe

David Skok. Photo via the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

David Skok. Photo via the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Big news from the Boston Globe: chief digital guy David Skok is leaving later this year. I’m trying to do this on my phone. So, for now, the memo from editor Brian McGrory will have to suffice.

Friday update: Skok’s departure is especially significant given that the Globe is in the midst of a major reinvention effort as well as another round of downsizing. Skok is a huge part of solving a big problem for the Globe: although it has made strides in becoming a round-the-clock digital news organization, as McGrory notes below, most of its readers continue to view the print edition as the main event. That’s true at newspapers generally—even the Washington Post, perhaps the most digitally focused newspaper in the country.

No one is irreplaceable, but it’s not going to be easy for the Globe to find someone as knowledgeable and respected as Skok.

Here is the Nieman article co-authored by Clayton Christensen, Skok, and James Allworth that McGrory mentions below. And here is a talk Skok gave at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center in April 2015.

McGrory’s message to the newsroom follows.

When I journeyed to Toronto one summer day three years ago to meet David Skok, I brought with me no small number of demands. The Globe had a new and beautiful website, but we needed far more traffic to make it matter. The newsroom had many digital ambitions, but lacked someone to point us in the right directions. We could hear the music, but were slow to pick up the rhythm. Basically, we needed to find the most capable and disciplined digital journalist in the industry to guide us toward an entirely better place.

David’s work launching a confederation of news sites that spanned Canada was widely lauded, and his paper on disruption, co-authored with Clay Christensen during his Nieman fellowship, served as something of an instruction manual for many in the business. In a part of the industry filled with hucksters spouting jargon, it was immediately apparent to me over dinner that David stood far apart. He very much belonged at the Globe.

The rest has been nothing short of transformational. In the two-and-a-half years since David arrived on Morrissey Boulevard, globe.com readership and revenues have soared. Last year was a record year for traffic, and this year we’re already up by nearly 20 percent. We now have a fresher, bolder, more relevant, and increasingly provocative site filled with a heady mix of digital-first journalism that captures the moment and deeper enterprise presented in ways that are geared toward the web. Our social and video teams are producing visual and social journalism that rivals many digital native news sites. Most important of all, this entire room has arrived at an understanding of what it means to be a digital-first operation and why it’s vital to our future. It’s often easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come as we focus on how much work is left to do.

I’ve buried the lede here, certainly because the next line pains me so to write, but here goes: David has decided to leave the Globe. He’s seeking his next professional challenge, which he very much hopes will lead him back to Canada. I’ve asked him to continue to lend his insights to our vital reinvention initiative, and he has agreed. We’re both thinking of a departure around the end of the year, give or take.

David’s legacy here can be distilled rather easily. While self-proclaimed digital gurus are always chasing the newest new thing – More video! A landing page for newsletters! – David takes a distinctly different approach. He constantly and consistently preaches quality – quality story-telling, quality editing, quality decision-making. He wags his finger at anyone seduced by the siren song of page views – “Vanity metrics,” he calls them – and recites from memory what specific stories led to the most subscriptions. The reason behind this is very simple: David is a journalist first, a digital visionary second.

More recently, he has taken his managerial skills outside of the newsroom, imposing a rare sense of order in our digital efforts building-wide. He has had no problem whatsoever holding demanding department heads at bay because of precious resources, while holding his own team accountable for its time.

One other note that probably shouldn’t come this far in: David is a world-class colleague, smart, humane, funny in his own Canadian way, and a person of some of the highest integrity I’ve ever seen. Add to that the fact that he quite simply never lets up on himself.

There’s no need to say goodbye to David just yet; as I said, that won’t occur until later in the year. But David wanted to give me, and us, plenty of notice. The front office will make announcements imminently on who will take over the digital operations in other parts of the building, and I’ll begin putting together a plan for the newsroom. It could involve a specific person, a different structure, or some combination of the two. Please stay tuned.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to David’s work is the extraordinary digital team that he’s assembled over the past couple of years, so infused with authority and confidence that it will prosper long after he is gone. We are on the verge of even greater things, and that doesn’t change at all.

Brian

Post on downsizing was misleading, says Globe arts editor

Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker has sent the following response to my Tuesday post regarding cutbacks in the Globe‘s arts coverage. Ostriker makes some good points, and in retrospect I wish I had done more than simply link to other blogs.

Some misunderstandings regarding the Boston Globe’s arts coverage have been spreading online—including in your recent post—and I would welcome an opportunity to clarify our plans.

The Globe is dedicated to bringing our readers the best possible arts coverage, every single day, both in print and online. With an outstanding Sunday Arts section and a Friday Weekend section packed with arts and entertainment coverage, we will continue to showcase the superb work of our staff critics in every area of the arts, including Pulitzer Prize winners Sebastian Smee and Mark Feeney, Ty Burr, Jeremy Eichler, Don Aucoin, Matthew Gilbert, and Steve Smith. With the help of powerhouse arts reporter Malcolm Gay, we will continue to vigorously report on broader issues relating to the arts, often on the Globe’s front page. Few newspapers in the country can boast such a sparkling roster of staff writers exploring the arts, or more commitment to covering the arts in every form, from theater to art, music, movies, television, and dance.

Meanwhile, as we weigh our priorities when it comes to freelance coverage, we are shifting our focus to emphasize reported feature stories (the Jon Garelick piece you cited was an example; see others below, along with a couple of recent freelance reviews). There will certainly be exceptions to this, but our overall goal is simple: We’re looking to tell the most compelling stories that will appeal to readers in every area of the arts. We are encouraging artists, performers, and arts organizations of all kinds to share their best ideas for feature stories with us. And we will be counting on all of our terrific freelance writers to help us tell those stories.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/23/aspen-santa-ballet-looks-sharp-jacob-pillow/kPvtu0HzsbN1qMyLg8FqbO/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movies/2016/06/23/star-director-put-some-teeth-into-shark-movie-the-shallows/eScusIuCy9dRZZqSKukkaM/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2016/06/19/when-political-campaigning-meets-conceptual-art/wypDm1w65pHel9BjnkKRwJ/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/21/louie-anderson-connects-with-his-inner-mom/EHPZZAUMgGyeSmknmWpLEK/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/22/civil-discourse-divided-country-true-story/kj5nRBQXA8IkIS3zft1ozL/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/23/ten-classic-bob-dylan-performances-you-probably-never-heard-but-should/03DXS6S5nttP4Ypm3KtlxK/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/23/air-guitar-from-elaborate-lark-utopian-gesture/eopfkYUwQM4EowQkCYLJPI/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/22/best-known-jazz-trumpeter-nicholas-payton-out-break-molds/aA6vJxvIJyRtGXX25Shq1I/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/15/british-singer-songwriter-ben-watt-finds-drama-midlife-experiences/ufc92eXc6sFhghI9DmISiM/story.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2016/06/15/sicpp-revisits-disparate-musical-masterpieces-from/CPnHREgUk3u7E02c0QQDcL/story.html

The Globe runs a wraparound front-page ad

Click on any image for a larger view.

One of the few disadvantages of being a digital subscriber to the Boston Globe is that whenever there’s news regarding the print edition (except on Sundays), I’m usually the last to know.

So … today the Globe published a four-page wraparound of sponsored content from Children’s Hospital that looks like the front page, though it’s clearly labeled as advertising. I’ve seen half-page ad treatments in newspapers, which I’ve tried to emulate with the image in the middle. But I haven’t seen a full page (at left) before. The actual front page, which you get to once you pull off the wraparound, is at right.

The Children’s Hospital content is featured on BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com as well, although there’s nothing unusual about the online treatment.

The verdict: We all know this wouldn’t have flown 10 or maybe even five years ago. But there is no money in the newspaper business these days. I’m willing to be very understanding of any form of advertising as long as it’s properly labeled.

On the other hand, you don’t want to do anything that alienates your best customers—that is, your print subscribers. So, yes, I would have preferred it if the Globe had tried to talk Children’s into going for the half-page treatment instead.

The Boston Globe downsizes its arts coverage

Note: Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker has responded to this post.

The Boston Globe is cutting back on some of its arts coverage, as reported by Anulfo Baez at the Evolving Critic and, several weeks ago, by the Boston Musical Intelligencer. Based on those posts and an email I received from an affected writer, it appears that the Globe is drastically reducing its use of freelancers to cover arts-related events.

In that light, it’s perhaps noteworthy that today’s Globe includes a music review by Jon Garelick, who’s a full-time copy editor for the opinion section. Jon, a former colleague of mine at the Boston Phoenix, is widely respected as one of the most accomplished arts journalists in the country.

I suspect the contours of what’s happening with the Globe‘s arts coverage will be more clearly defined when the results of the ongoing reinvention effort are made public, perhaps later this summer.