Globe editor McGrory addresses printing woes

The WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) program “Boston Public Radio” just aired an interview with Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory that was recorded earlier today. McGrory is a regular Wednesday guest on the show, hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. At the end of their half-hour conversation, McGrory briefly addressed the Globe’s problems at its Taunton printing facility.

“Look we’ve been on a difficult run over here,” McGrory said, adding that there have been good and bad nights. “It’s proven more difficult than we had anticipated,” he said, and the result was that the paper’s top executives had decided to make some changes in leadership. “Some very, very good high-quality people are no longer here at the Globe,” he said. McGrory was clearly referring to the departure of chief operating officer Sean Keohan and (so I hear) at least one other top executive as well. In addition, the Globe’s chief executive officer, Doug Franklin, left in July, although that was reportedly not related to the printing problems.

“We think we’re making progress,” McGrory said. “We’ve had some very good stretches, a week, two weeks at a time,” followed by “some significant setbacks.” One of those setbacks, he noted, affected this past Sunday’s Globe.

“Amid the progress there are setbacks, and it is really, really frustrating,” he said. “The overall trendlines are showing improvement,” he added, although those improvements need to be “faster and more consistent.”

Earlier

Talk about this post on Facebook.

Advertisements

Katie Kingsbury is leaving the Globe for a position at The New York Times

Kathleen Kingsbury, The Boston Globe’s managing editor for digital, is leaving the paper to accept a position as deputy editorial-page editor of The New York Times. This is a big one. Kingsbury is a Pulitzer-winning editorial writer, and she stepped into her current role last fall just as the Globe’s reinvention effort was heating up. She replaced David Skok, who was returning to his native Canada.

Ben Mullin of Poynter has editor Brian McGrory’s farewell note:

I interviewed Kingsbury for my forthcoming book last fall, and I found her to be smart in all the right ways. When we talked, she told me she was testing out various smartphone apps for possible adoption by the Globe — an effort that we long-suffering mobile readers certainly hope pays off soon.

Kingsbury announced her departure just as the Globe is settling in at its new headquarters at 53 State St. On Saturday, the Globe’s entire print run took place at its new Taunton facility for the first time, according to a message to employees from  Rich Masotta, the Globe’s vice president for operations.

Kingsbury proved to be a good internal candidate for the top digital position. It will be interesting to see if the Globe goes outside or inside for her successor. Globe owner John Henry has bet the farm on paid digital. If anything, the Globe needs to accelerate its efforts on improving its digital products.

The Globe moves ahead with restructured beats

As the staff prepares to move to its new headquarters on State Street, The Boston Globe is rolling out its new beat structure. Here’s a list of what many of the reporters, editors and columnists are up to.

It doesn’t strike me as hugely different from what the Globe was doing before (and that’s a good thing), but it is built more around the idea of clusters that cover different topics, such as “Business, Technology, and Consumers.” Others: “Education,” “Healthcare, Science, and Medicine,” “Living and Working in Greater Boston,” “Arts and Books,” and “Politics, Government, and Accountability.”

In keeping with editor Brian McGrory’s reinvention memos, the beats comprise areas of interest rather than institutions that need to be covered, whether anyone wants to read about them or not. There’s also a greater emphasis on publishing stories online when they’re ready rather than waiting for the print edition. According to a memo from McGrory, last week — the first for the restructured beats — was a good one for digital subscriptions.

Some kind soul sent me a copy of McGrory’s memo, sent out late Friday afternoon. (The “Super Department,” by the way, combines much of the paper’s metro, business and lifestyle coverage.) Here’s the full text:

So to be clear, nobody should be ready to declare victory after our first full week of reinvention. We all know there are many wrinkles to iron out, and we’re already identifying changes that need to be changed.

But, damn, I’m having a tough time containing my enthusiasm over how well it’s gone and the massive potential that it holds. The truth is, I’m more excited about it now than at any time before.

It’s worth noting that we started from a dead stop. There was no lineup of clever stories ready to roll out. Spotlight didn’t have anything on the runway. Reporters hadn’t been quietly prepping on their new beats. No, 10 days ago, just after a long holiday weekend, we launched from scratch — with, by my count, at least 87 people in substantially different positions than they held the week before.

What’s happened? The metabolism has quickened considerably. People are here earlier in the day. Our higher profile enterprise stories are receiving a final edit through the day, and introduced online at peak readership times. There are fewer logjams in the evening — reporters waiting for that last read on a story. Copy-edits are happening far more frequently across the day.

Because we’re factoring in the needs of digital more effectively, the print front is holding fewer stories back, which means we’re popping more enterprise on the site, much of which is rippling back to the Business and Metro fronts in print. The paper, as we hoped, has been the stronger for it. Calls for A1 and the Metro and Business print fronts are getting made sooner, allowing us to better plan for the next day’s site.

All of which is to say that things, in general, are going as planned — not always, but often enough. And Pete Doucette [the Globe’s chief consumer revenue officer] says it’s the best week we’ve had for digital subscriptions in a while.

In many ways, there’s something of a symphonic quality to it all. It starts early in the morning when the Express Desk arrives and begins posting newsy and clever stories. They hold a stand-up meeting in the middle of the newsroom at 8:30, swapping ideas and mapping out the rest of the day. Then we bring in the enterprise work, pitched and scheduled at the 9:15 news meeting, which already has a newly creative tone. Beyond that, the strike team, narrative, and Spotlight will soon be adding to the mix. Beat reporters across the Super Department will be quickly gaining authority in what, for many, are new areas. Of course, sports, DC, arts, travel, and the magazine are as vital as ever. It’s a matter of time — and not a lot of it — until the full band, every aspect, is playing to its potential.

There’s much credit to go around for great stories, smart edits, beautiful photography, brilliant designs, inviting graphics, expert planning — really, too much to include here. Please know that I’m grateful beyond words. I’d like to say take the summer off, given how utterly draining this has all been, but, well, you wouldn’t want that anyway. Right?

My sincere thanks to everyone for so much hard and excellent work.

Brian

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.

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

Talk about this post on Facebook.

No more ‘paper of record’: McGrory offers more details on the Globe’s reinvention

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Earlier this week Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory promised his staff that he’d soon be offering more details about the paper’s reinvention effort. Well, a little while ago his latest memo came floating in through my open window.

If you are interested in the future of the Globe then you should read it in full; it defies summary. My instant takeaway, though, is that there are three points that deserve special attention:

  • The Globe is moving away from the idea that it needs to be a paper of record in the old-fashioned sense. Rather, McGrory wants it to be “an organization of interest.” In other words, no more obligatory process stories about things that few readers care about.
  • The news cycle will be reorganized to move further away from the deadlines demanded by the print schedule. Instead, stories will be published online throughout the day and night, with an “Express Desk” playing a key role in that.
  • The old barriers separating the newsroom and business sides will be rethought. There is an industry-wide view that at a time when revenues are shrinking, new working relationships need to be defined as long as they don’t compromise the integrity of the journalism. Easier said than done, of course.

The full text of McGrory’s memo follows.

Hey all,

I wanted to give you an update on where we are with the reinvention initiative. The intention was to be brief. The reality is that it’s not. My apologies in advance.

The presentations by the four sets of working group chairs in late November went incredibly well. I hope everyone agrees. The pitches were strong, the questions and comments were smart, and there seemed to be an unmistakable consensus around the need for change. Following those meetings, I’ve sat with a decent swath of the newsroom in one-on-one and small group meetings to get a sense of your thoughts and concerns. I’ve found it truly helpful, to say the least. Your sheer brains and commitment all but guarantee our success in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Separately, we’ve put together a core reinvention committee, composed of the eight working group chairs, and the deputy managing editors, managing editors, and the editorial page editor. We’ve met several times to begin mapping out initiatives that we can roll out as soon as this month. We’re making good progress, but we need to step it up.

Indulge me while I repeat some of the principles behind a reinvention:

  • We need to be still more interesting, relentlessly interesting, every hour of the day. To this end, we need to jettison any sense of being the paper of record. We are the organization of interest. If something feels obligatory to write, it’s an obligation for someone to read. The problem is, readers don’t feel that obligation any more.
  • We need to focus on what readers truly value, understanding that we can’t be all things to everyone. The great news is that Globe subscribers most want to read the kinds of stories that we most like to produce. Think accountability journalism, colorful and contextual breaking news reporting, lyrical narrative, smart enterprise reporting, and provocative commentary.
  • We need to focus not on platforms, but on journalism. We must redouble all efforts to demolish the stubborn rhythms of a legacy news operation and get our work in front of people when they are most likely to read it.
  • We need to make sure that the boundaries that served us well in better financial times don’t become obstacles to our success. Put more bluntly, we need to work with the other departments to make sure we have enough revenue to support our journalism.
  • We always need to hold true to our journalistic values, because without them, we lose our credibility. Repeat this last one again.

So here’s a rough map of where we go from here, understanding that this remains very much a work in progress, and there will be bumps—really mountains—to traverse along the way.

1. You’ll receive a questionnaire via email soon, prepared by Jen Peter [senior deputy managing editor for local news] and Anica Butler [assistant metro editor], asking, among other things, what beats you’ve dreamed of covering or what jobs you’d most like to have. It could be the one you have now, it could be something else, it could be a role that we haven’t thought about but will want to have when we hear it. Please respond to this questionnaire. We need to hear from you.

2. We’re planning to set up a room-wide Express Desk as soon as possible. This is designed to get news in front of the eyes of our readers quickly, and to have a fascinating diversity of news. It could be a water main break in the Financial District one moment, a passenger handing out Christmas gifts on an arriving JetBlue flight the next. This desk needs to not only be urgent, but smart and clever, and it will be powered by some of the most talented people in this room. I’ve asked Katie Kingsbury [managing editor for digital] to lead a small group in mapping out an Express Desk in terms of size and positions, and she’ll have something back to us very soon.

3. We’re planning to set up a Print Desk, congruent with the Express Desk. While the larger room focuses on journalism, the print desk will focus on how that journalism comes together in paper form every day. Let me be absolutely clear here: The physical newspaper will not be an afterthought at the Globe. It is of vital importance to us, a huge—albeit, declining—source of our revenue, and the most valued product to our most loyal readers. But it cannot continue to needlessly dominate our thinking and resources in the way it currently does. I asked Chris Chinlund [managing editor for news] to lead a small group in determining the size and components of this operation, and she, too, will have something back in early January.

4. We’ll expand on our excellence in projects, with an eye toward even more, with a greater range of ambition and length (some even shorter than this memo).

5. We’ll set up an Audience Engagement team under Jason Tuohey [deputy managing editor for audience engagement] designed to make sure we are better connecting to existing audiences, and seeking new audiences, in every way possible, through our journalism and the way we present it. We are swimming in metrics. The goal now is to refine, interpret, and apply them. We will offer whatever training is necessary to work on the team.

6. We will reimagine our beats with the same eye toward becoming relentlessly interesting. I don’t know that we’ve done a major refresh of our beats in decades. It’s time. So the reinvention group, or some subset of it, will outline new beats and recalibrate the resources we have on our coverage areas. The broader room needs to play a major role in this with your ideas, whether through the questionnaire or in conversations with me and others. Please express your creativity and passions, and do it soon.

In determining what we want to cover, it will become clearer to all of us what we should forego, or at least what we can cover less of. As part of this, we’ll look at presenting news in different formats, to cut down our overuse of the incremental 700-word story.

7. We will refine and then refine again the Hubs system that was proposed by the Mission working group, but it’s not quite ready to be implemented yet—or maybe we as a room are not quite ready to accept it. There are many intriguing, even brilliant, aspects to the Hubs concept, which would push us to be far more nimble, provocative, and—this word, again—interesting But there needs to be more clarity in how it would work day to day. My sense is that we’re getting snagged up on Hubs as the infrastructure of the room. If we create Hubs within the infrastructure, we will get a better sense of how they’ll work and how effective they can be. So that’s exactly how we’ll start. Hub ideas are welcome.

8. We are planning to appoint a small, tech-savvy group that will devote itself to making Methode more user-friendly and an overall better communications tool for the entire room. [Methode is the Globe’s content-management system.]

9. We are setting up groups to further engage Advertising and Circulation, hoping to involve the newsroom deeper in both areas. On Circulation, we will focus on subscriber retention, with some acquisition, working with our colleagues there to do direct outreach to subscribers. On Advertising, we are putting together a newsroom-based advisory group to offer input on all forms of sponsored and native campaigns, with the intention to ratchet up the creativity that goes into these campaigns. David Dahl [deputy managing editor for operations] is currently drawing up rules of the road to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in a compromising position.

10. We’ll be looking, soon, to get much of the room started earlier in the day, and impose rolling deadlines on enterprise stories through the day, to assure that we have a flow of fresh stories when people are most likely to read them. Still too many stories are posted on the site in the evening, because we’ve followed old-school print deadlines. That’s got to stop. The news meetings will be pushed up soon, probably to 9 a.m. The morning meeting will focus on brainstorming ideas, and the specifics of when stories will be posted. The afternoon will include the timing of web stories, but focus too on the print paper.

Key point: As part of this, we have to fulfill the promise to everyone in the room that as you get here earlier, you leave earlier. Foreign as this might seem, it is very doable.

Over the next few weeks, a dedicated group will basically create a blueprint for a reimagined newsroom, carving out the new desks mentioned above, prescribing headcounts to each of these areas, and getting right down to specific beats, possible Hubs, and reconfigured departments. You aren’t just invited to be a part of it, you need to be a part of it. Offer up your thoughts. We’ll come back to the room soon with what we have.

There’s more, especially in terms of communications and the culture of the room. And please keep in mind that this is not a one-and-done project, but a constant evolution; some of the things we change will need to be changed again.

In sum, picture a newsroom that kicks to life before dawn, as members of an Express Desk arrive and continue to flow in through the morning, ready to post breaking news, fashion clever ideas, and find the wryest stories trending on social media. Picture the larger room starting their jobs by 9 in most instances, ready to publish at peak times. Picture a round-the-clock multiplatform desk ready to give stories an expert workover regardless of the hour they are submitted.

Picture a wider range of fresher beats to produce a steady stream of fascinating stories. Picture a story-telling team from product and development working on hubs to create extraordinary presentations. Picture respected and experienced “priority editors”—what one working group described as “air traffic controllers” and another as “traffic cops”—making the best use of our journalism across the day, the week, and the platform. In this scenario, the print desk begins arriving in the early afternoon, working with a team of talented designers to produce a stunning newspaper for the following morning.

Lift the lens a bit and see an even broader picture, of a room more inclined to pursue risks and more accepting of the inevitable failures. It is an enterprise more crusading in our approach, an organization that not only covers the region, but regularly provokes it—by holding the powerful accountable, giving voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have one, advocating for what works, and being our readers’ best ally. All the while, we will be working closely with the business side to drive digital subscriptions, keep our existing subscribers happy, and offer our creativity to native content.

Easy, right?

Probably not, but we will accomplish this in the coming months, your help very much required. Please continue to speak up. We need to hear from you.

Brian

Talk about this post on Facebook.