Globe CEO to staff: Full speed ahead with the move

For your weekend memo-reading pleasure, I’ve obtained an email that Boston Globe CEO Doug Franklin sent to the staff on Thursday. Note that the move out of the Globe’s Dorchester plant at 135 Morrissey Blvd. is proceeding even though a deal to sell it recently fell through.

Keep an eye on Franklin’s statement that “Our production transition is our biggest risk right now.” The translation is that if the printing operation in Taunton isn’t fully ready to handle the Globe and its customers (USA Today, The New York Times, the Boston Herald, etc.) when Morrissey shuts down, then they’re going to find themselves in a world of hurt.

The full text of Franklin’s message follows.

Colleagues,

Over the next few weeks, the Globe will see two major transitions. We’ll soon begin printing all our newspapers out of the new plant in Taunton, and we’ll move our offices to Exchange Place in downtown Boston. These moves will help us leverage our five strategic goals: digital subscriber growth, digital advertising growth, greater efficiency producing print papers, becoming the community convener, and being an employer of choice.

Our new workspaces are a big change physically, but really they’re just buildings, desks and equipment. The Globe won’t change because of the move, it will change because you change your work for our audiences and advertisers.

Every department is working aggressively on accomplishing our goals. Pressmen are running new presses, salespeople prospecting for digital/print campaigns, editors and reporters finding new ways to engage audiences for digital subscriptions, and technology teams developing new roadmaps for better user experiences. There is so much opportunity and work ahead for all of us.

Along with all this change will be the inevitable “bumps in the road.” We need to be supportive of each other, flexible, and focused on our work. Our business will continue to change dramatically and the new facilities are part of our journey.

Our strategic goals will drive the Globe’s financial sustainability and long-term success. Your efforts every day are the building blocks of our performance. There are many things happening in our company, much of it good. Among them:

  • Digital subscriptions have passed 83,000 on the way to 100,000. We are confident we have the right tactics to achieve our goal. We are the leader nationally in regional newspaper digital subscriptions.
  • Globe.com audience performance was at all time highs the first quarter of this year.
  • Consumer/subscriber revenue is performing very well, our bright spot financially.
  • Print subscriptions, while down over last year, is ahead of our plan.
  • Advertising is ahead of plan slightly through the first four months of this year but digital advertising needs to be stronger.
  • Commercial print revenues are slightly off due to our printing transitions.
  • Costs are declining but still heavy until we exit Morrissey completely and fully ramp up Taunton efficiencies. Our production transition is our biggest risk right now.
  • We announced our newsroom reinvention, continuing the transformation to a more audience and digital centric content approach to our journalism.
  • We’re rebuilding a cohesive product and technology roadmap focused on digital subscription and advertising to improve user experiences.
  • STAT audience growth continues to set new records, hitting 2 million unique visitors in March.

All of you contribute greatly to our success, here are a few that represent the important work each of you do every day:

  • Our Globe newsroom was a two-time Pulitzer finalist this year, in Local Reporting and in Criticism, reflecting our best in class journalism. Congrats to The Spotlight Team, for its riveting look at the failures of the state’s mental health care system. This was the second time in three years that Spotlight has been a Pulitzer finalist. Congratulations as well to Ty Burr, the Globe’s star movie critic and culture columnist, who was a finalist for a collection of his best work.
  • Katie O’Brien, Director of Classified Advertising, led a redesign of our obituary pages driving a 20% increase in revenues.
  • As part of our facility moves, Kelly Mallenbranche and Chris Mayotte’s teams in IT burned lots of late night hours successfully moving our digital systems to our new offsite server location.
  • Tom Brown and Mollie Toomey’s analysis and management of our digital and print subscribers is driving us towards our 100,000 digital subs and an incremental $6 million in revenue this year.

We have a great story to tell our audiences, clients and community as we transform. Communication and marketing will get more attention in the coming months.

All of this means we are improving financially but not out of the woods yet. Overall, I feel we have made better progress to date than where I thought we would be at this point. Thank you for your work and commitment to the Globe!

Doug

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The Boston Globe’s storytelling event reinforces community ties

The other day I was talking with a colleague about how our news-consumption habits had changed during the early months of the Trump presidency. The endless torrent of shocking developments from Washington had tied both of us to The Washington Post and The New York Times from the moment we got up and through much of the day. Local news, by comparison, had faded into the background.

Yet it’s local news that is essential to the civic glue that binds us together. Ultimately none of us as individuals can do much about what’s taking place nationally. We live in communities, and it’s at that level where each of us can have an effect, for better or for worse.

Last Friday evening The Boston Globe provided a vibrant reminder of that, packaging its local journalism not in print or on the web but, rather, through two and a half hours of live storytelling. Dubbed Globe Live, the event — held before nearly 600 people at the Emerson Paramount Center — featured nonfiction monologues, video, photography, music, and even some comedy.

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

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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