Globe editor McGrory seeks to create a digital-first paper without neglecting print

Earlier today The Boston Globe published editor Brian McGrory’s latest update on the paper’s ongoing reinvention effort. For anyone who read his January memo, it shouldn’t contain too many surprises. Essentially it represents his and his staff’s latest thinking on how to build a digital-first news organization while not letting the print edition wither away. The idea, McGrory writes, is:

to once and for all break the stubborn rhythms of a print operation, allowing us to unabashedly pursue digital subscriptions even while honoring the many loyal readers who subscribe to the physical paper.

The main takeaways:

  • Managing editor for news Christine Chinlund, the newsroom veteran who’s overseeing the move to the paper’s new headquarters at 53 State St., may depart later this year, though McGrory writes that he’s trying to talk her out of it.
  • An “express desk” will push out “in-the-moment important, quirky and just plain fascinating stories that metrics show our readership craves.”
  • Much of the paper’s metro, business and lifestyle operations will be merged into what McGrory is calling a “super department” — an idea he says he first had when he was metro editor. “Admittedly, it was a failed power grab then, but now it’s just common sense,” he writes. The idea is that a big local story might cut across areas that have traditionally been divided by departmental lines. “Think the scourge of student debt, the era of political engagement, and a new consumer advocate, among many others,” McGrory writes. “Some beats are meant to last but a few months, others longer, but all will need to be constantly reassessed.”

Also of note: The Globe is looking to add a position to its Washington bureau, and may sell sports-only subscriptions outside New England in the near future. And, McGrory writes, “we are going to do whatever we can to put the 600-word incremental story out of its sad little end-state misery.” (Studies show that online readers prefer both shorter and longer stories, but that the medium-length story so beloved of newspapers because of the way they fit on a page no longer resonate.)

More Twitter reaction:

There’s a lot more to McGrory’s memo than I’m highlighting here. If you’re interested in the future of the Globe, you should definitely read the whole thing.

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Boston Globe staffers prepare for June move to 53 State St.

The Boston Globe will be relocating to a spot not far from the old Newspaper Row. This 1927 photo is via the Globe.

Boston Globe employees are getting closer to moving out of their Dorchester headquarters and into new downtown digs at 53 State St. According to a memo to the staff from managing editor for news Christine Chinlund, a copy of which magically arrived in my inbox, the move will take place in waves this June.

Not much news other than that unless you are personally affected. Still, Chinlund’s memo amused me, and it might amuse you as well. Here it is:

The pace picked up this week, with many more folks voluntarily tossing out unneeded stuff, and emptying cabinets and bookshelves for removal. Thanks for that. Downtown, construction folks are working back-to-back shifts. The rest of the carpet is down, and polishing concrete (for the portions not carpeted) is underway. The finish work is also pretty far along. Furniture is set to arrive on May 8.

Questions?

Q: Is the whole building going to move at once?

A: No. We are looking at a six part move, starting in early June. First, HR and IT will go, followed two days later by the finance folks, and STAT. A couple of days later the ad/creative folks will follow. Then comes the newsroom, in three parts: Nearly half the newsroom will go in the first wave, followed two days later by almost everyone else except the copy desk, which will follow on the following Sunday, when news flow is relatively light. This plan is, of course, open to revision. But you get the general idea.

Q: At 53 State, may we have little fridges near desks, as we do now?

A: No, but there will be four or five big refrigerators in our kitchen/pantry, along with two monster microwaves. In the much smaller secondary pantry, which is at the corner of Sports and Metro/Business/Features, there will be another refrigerator and I think microwave.

Q: But will I still need to wash my salad bowl in the restroom?

A:  Never again. Both kitchen areas have nice sinks.

Q: I need to start moving stuff out of here now, and taking stuff home. Where do I get boxes?

A: We do not have special boxes for hauling stuff home. But good boxes can be salvaged pretty much daily from the recycle hamper (bin) in the back hall of the cafeteria. Shop early for best selection. Or borrow one of the plastic post office boxes you see around, but you must return it the next day. We need every one of those that we have.

Q: When we move, do we have to get all our computer stuff in our two allotted bankers boxes?

A: No. There will be a separate box for whatever computer hardware we end up taking.

Q: If I need only one of my two boxes for moving day, can I “sell” my second one to someone else?

A: Nice try, but no.

Q: Seems like we should have some sort of party as we leave this venerable old building. Are we?

A: We certainly hope so, and are trying to make it happen. Think good beer and pizza, and invitations to anyone who ever worked here. Hold that thought….

Want to know more? Come view the fresh photos posted on my office window. Of special note: the big photo showing the rather amazing 12th floor roof deck at our disposal. You won’t believe the view.

Fahrenthold and journalism’s limits; the power of local; and the Globe’s near-winners

Few reporters have ever had the kind of year that David Fahrenthold experienced in 2016. From exposing the Trump Foundation’s bogus and illegal practices to unearthing a tape on which then-candidate Donald Trump could be heard crudely boasting about sexual assault, Fahrenthold single-handedly defined large swaths of the presidential campaign.

Fahrenthold, a Washington Post reporter, was recognized for his efforts Monday with a Pulitzer Prize, which was surely among the least surprising Pulitzers in history. It represented the third year in a row that the Post had won in the National Reporting category, but the first time in 24 years that a Pulitzer had been awarded for covering a presidential campaign.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. And talk about this post on Facebook.

Globe editor McGrory defends placement of BMC ad atop front page

The print edition of today’s Boston Globe includes a banner advertisement that appears above the nameplate at the very top of the page. The ad, for Boston Medical Center, promotes that institution’s addiction services. The placement is unusual enough to have prompted a message to the staff late Monday night from Globe editor Brian McGrory.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. And talk about this post on Facebook.

The Globe reports a surge in paid digital subscriptions

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory’s latest message to his staff just arrived here via the usual top-secret route. The big news is that the Globe is reporting a surge in paid digital subscriptions. According deputy managing editor Jason Tuohey, paid digital has nearly hit 79,000, up from about 75,000 just a few weeks ago.

The Globe has bet the farm on paid digital — and, at $30 a month for longtime subscribers, it’s charging more than just about any newspaper. For instance, The Washington Post’s cheapest offering, the National Digital Edition, costs just $10 every four weeks. The Post, of course, is pursuing a huge national audience. The Globe, as a regional paper, has no option but to try to make its money from a much smaller group of readers.

The Globe has lately been upgrading its digital-only offerings, posting a “Trump Today” roundup every morning, moving must-read weather guy Dave Epstein from the free Boston.com site to Globe.com, and unveiling a blizzard of electronic newsletters. It sounds like it’s having an effect. Now if only they can do something about those slow loading speeds.

The full text of McGrory’s message is below.

Hey all,

We’ve got some numbers that are very much worth sharing from the past few weeks. Last year at this time we were having our best winter to date. We had Donald Trump’s emergence and the NH primary, among other big stories. This year, over the past 31 days, we’re up 45 percent in page views. That alone should speak volumes. More important, we’ve gained 2,100 digital subscribers in the past two calendar weeks — and that doesn’t include some equally remarkable success already this week.

Let’s acknowledge that no small part of this readership is being driven by extraordinary events. But what this room has done is provide exceptional journalism under relentless pressure, such that readers feel compelled to come back to us time and again — and to pull out their credit cards to subscribe. It’s the performance of our Washington bureau, which is breathtakingly thoughtful and engaging. It’s the work of our Metro staff in covering immigration issues and the massive protests, exhaustive reporting that has quite literally taken staff straight through the night. It’s the best Sports department in America reporting on the best Super Bowl comeback in history, with commentary, insight, and straight news coverage that no organization on the planet can match.

Katie [Kingsbury, managing editor for digital] asked Jason Tuohey for a fuller picture of our recent successes. Here’s Jason’s direct response:

First off, January 2017 was the best month we’ve had in at least three years. We broke post-Marathon bombing records in a host of categories:

  • Visits
  • Unique visitors
  • Page views
  • Logged-in visits / aka subscriber visits
  • Returning visitors
  • Return visits of five or more times
  • Return visits of 20 or more times

Still Jason: This torrid pace has extended into February. We added 1,331 subscribers last week, the highest total in more than three years, which put us at 77,999 paid digital subscribers. We didn’t stay there very long, converting nearly 800 more new subscribers in the past two days alone. Yesterday, the day after the Super Bowl, ranked among the very best days we’ve ever had on Globe.com in virtually every audience category we measure.

Put simply, our audience isn’t just growing — it’s swelling with new subscribers, who come back again and again to experience our journalism.

The big drivers for this surge in readership are Trump, particularly the marches and the executive order on immigration, and the Patriots. But if you’re looking for a few other gems in 2017, here are some options:

— [Bryan] Marquard’s obit on Dr. Kamala Dansinghani

— Jackie Reiss on why Sasha Obama wasn’t at her father’s farewell

— Jan Ransom’s story about the 14-year-old charged with murder

— Liz Kowalczyk’s reporting on the intruder in the Brigham OR

— Matt Rocheleau explaining how White House webpages were archived (not deleted, as others reported) on the first day of the Trump administration

— The Dan Adams-led investigation into which bars have the most OUIs

Brian again:

Be proud. Everyone in the room has played a role here, from the reporting to the exquisite editing and copy-editing, to the extraordinary graphics, the arresting photography, the ground-breaking development and product work, the polished and addictive video, and the striking designs online and in print. Subscriptions are our lifeblood, and we’re bringing digital subscribers to the Globe far, far more effectively than any other metro news organization in the country.

While we’re at it, please offer your appreciation to our colleagues at boston.com, who have seen an unprecedented surge on our sister site, especially over the past four days. The reasons are not surprising: great, often clever and pithy stories that capture the absolute essence of Boston in the aftermath of the Super Bowl. It, too, has been a must read.

Congratulations and thanks to you all.

Brian

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The daily Trump: Katie Kingsbury on the Globe’s interactive transition graphic

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The Boston Globe has published a striking interactive graphic of the Trump transition. Titled “A transition like no other,” there’s an entry for every day since Donald Trump’s election. Each box has a thumbnail of the day’s major news and a link to the longer story. Most are accompanied by a tweet from Trump himself.

The graphic also appears in today’s print edition. But the digital version is more fully realized, and is worth checking out by anyone interested in digital storytelling. I emailed a few questions to Katie Kingsbury, the Globe’s managing editor for digital. Her responses are below.

Q: Who is the intended audience?

A: The past few months have been a whirlwind of news — this project was spawned out of a desire to capture the details amid that flood. Trump and his team made Cabinet decisions that will fundamentally change major geopolitical power structures that nations have relied on since World War II. He moved markets through Twitter. He took steps that will fundamentally undo Obama’s legacy over the next several months. Meanwhile, Obama was sanctioning a foreign nation for intervening in our presidential election.

Q: Studies show that people spend very little time on news websites compared to print. One way to counteract that is to produce journalism that invites return visits. Are you hoping this is the sort of feature that people will keep returning to?

A: I do hope people keep returning to it. For one, it is meant to be a good way to showcase our archives for the past three months. For another, there is so much there — you need to spend some serious time with it to realize the breadth of all that has happened since November. My guess is this will become one of those projects that people return to as well months from now, when the details aren’t as fresh.

Q: Do you plan to keep updating it? For how long?

A: We haven’t actually discussed that. It was no small investment by a lot of folks — [political editor] Felice Belman did an amazing job of sorting through 70-plus days of news and finding the best nuggets. [Digital design director] Michael Workman and [design director] Heather Hopp-Bruce spearheaded this gorgeous design for both online and the two-page spread in print. We have designers from across the building — Tonia Cowan, Ryan Huddle, Kelsey Kronmiller, and Brendan Lynch — who contributed illustrations. [Director of audience engagement] Matt Karolian and [deputy managing editor for audience engagement] Jason Tuohey have an ambitious social plan for today and tomorrow. Matt Ellis, our product manager, pulled together all these moving parts.

With that infrastructure in place, we would be able to keep it going without a ton of effort. Now I plan to explore that today. Thanks for the idea!

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The M-word, the C-word (no, not that C-word), and The Boston Globe

Update. From Ellen Clegg, the ever-responsive editor of The Boston Globe’s opinion pages:

You would think that, somewhere along the way, the climate activist Bill McKibben would have learned that the word midget is incredibly offensive to people in the dwarfism community—along the lines of the N-word among African-Americans. Or you’d think someone working for The Boston Globe’s opinion pages would know it.

Apparently not. Because here are the first two sentences of McKibben’s commentary in today’s Globe: “The Democrats were given one great gift last year. Even as they lost state legislatures and control of the Senate, even as they surrendered governors’ mansions and somehow turned over the White House to a moral midget, one thing broke their way.”

Here is some background on the M-word from Little People of America. I wrote about how the word came into existence in my 2003 book, “Little People.” In 2009 Clark Hoyt, then the public editor of The New York Times, wrote that the term would henceforth be banished.

And before you ask, “Well, how is the M-word offensive when it’s not referring to people with dwarfism?,” ask yourself what contexts would be acceptable for using the N-word. None, right? There you go.

So if the M-word doesn’t already have an entry in the Globe’s stylebook, I hope that’s rectified. And that an email reminder goes out to everyone.

Now that that’s settled, shall I point out that the Globe’s opinion pages also allowed the alt-right insult cuckold to sneak into today’s edition? It’s normally rendered as cuck, but I heard the dog whistle. Woof! If the term is new to you, GQ has an explainer about the term’s pornographic, racist origins.

Style note: Given that I do most of my writing these days for Peter Kadzis and company at WGBHNews.org, I try to stick with their house style at Media Nation, which makes it easier for us to share content. I am told we’re going to go all-in with AP style, with a few exceptions. (We’re keeping serial commas! Yay!) So if you’re wondering why newspaper, magazine, and book titles are not in italics today, that’s the reason. And if you didn’t notice, then you lead a healthier, more balanced life than I do.