Layoffs add to turmoil at Boston.com

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.47.15 PMNote: Updated with statement from Boston.com below. I got wind of this a little while ago — and it turns out that Garrett Quinn of Boston magazine was already working on it. A significant number of staff employees at the beleaguered Boston.com have been laid off. I hear 16; Quinn says “high teens.” [The actual number is 12, according to the Boston.com statement.] This comes after the departure of the site’s general manager and editor during the past week, and months of turmoil (punctuated by occasional calm) before that.

Boston Globe Media’s strategy of building free verticals around the Globe is, for  the most part, progressing nicely. BetaBoston, which covers the innovation economy; Crux, devoted to “all things Catholic”; and Stat, the forthcoming life-sciences site that’s already producing stories, are all quality projects.

But Boston.com has been seen as a thing apart ever since it was separated from BostonGlobe.com a year and a half ago. And the turmoil continues.

More: I just received this statement from incoming Boston.com general manager Eleanor Cleverly and outgoing general manager Corey Gottlieb:

We have spent much of the past few months rethinking an operational vision for Boston.com that both maintains our autonomy as a standalone business and reinforces our partnership with the Globe. Today, we announced a restructuring of Boston.com’s newsroom and the reduction of 12 full-time staff positions. This realignment includes changes to our leadership – Tim Molloy has chosen to step down and Kaitlyn Johnston, Boston.com’s current deputy editor, has been appointed as our site’s new editor.

This is a business decision that is part of a larger effort at Boston Globe Media Partners designed to put Boston.com in a stronger and more sustainable position for growth. That said, we would be remiss to overlook the fact that this was also a people decision, one that affects the lives of many who have worked tirelessly to support our operation. We are deeply grateful for that work.

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Boston.com editor departs, according to BoMag

The revolving door keeps spinning at Boston.com. Garrett Quinn of Boston magazine reports that editor Tim Molloy is out, just a few days after Eleanor Cleverly replaced Corey Gottlieb as general manager. Molloy had been editor only since March.

New general manager named at Boston.com

Eleanor Cleverly (via Twitter)
Eleanor Cleverly (via Twitter)

Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb is leaving to take a job at DraftKings, according to an email sent to the staff from Mike Sheehan, CEO of Boston Globe Media Partners. He will be replaced by Eleanor Cleverly, currently the company’s executive director of digital strategy and operations. A copy of Sheehan’s announcement wafted in on the breeze a little while ago, and I present it below in full.

I first met Corey Gottlieb about a month after he graduated from Amherst College, when he joined the ad agency world on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder as an assistant account executive. I was immediately impressed not only with his maturity, his creativity, and his intellect, but also his work ethic. Clearly, he was going to climb the career ladder by working, not by talking.

The following year, he came to my office and told me he had been offered a job as Director of Product Development at Major League Baseball Advanced Media. For someone that young who grew up in Brookline playing baseball and devoted to the Red Sox, it was a dream job. I countered with nothing but a handshake, my best wishes, and a plea to stay in touch.

Corey spent four years at MLBAM, and then went back to school for his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. As he was finishing up there, Andrew Perlmutter brought him in to discuss a role within BGMP, and he joined us as General Manager of Digital Marketplaces and was subsequently promoted to General Manager of Boston.com, leading its transition into a discreet digital property separate from the Globe. While that separation caused its fair share of anxiety, it has resulted in BostonGlobe.com having the third highest number of paid digital subscribers in the country, behind the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. From a business standpoint, there is no greater priority than producing quality journalism for which readers are willing to pay and with which advertisers are happy to be associated.

A few weeks ago, in a moment of deja vu, Corey came into my office and told me he had been offered a job as VP, Content at DraftKings. It’s a terrific opportunity, getting in on the ground floor of a fast-growing, Boston-based startup in the sports space. My counter was no different than the one before; I know I speak for everyone when I thank Corey for all he’s done and wish him nothing but success in his new endeavor.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look too long or too far for Corey’s successor — the first name that rolled of the tongues of Andrew, Corey, and David Skok was Eleanor Cleverly. And I couldn’t have agreed with them more. I’m pleased to announce Eleanor’s promotion to General Manager, Boston.com.

Since joining BGMP, Eleanor has served as Director of Content and General Manager of Digital Marketplaces, Interim Editor of Boston.com, and Executive Director of Digital Strategy overseeing Social Media. Eleanor joined BGMP from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where she worked for the Center of Public Leadership. She also served as Assistant Director of the Harmony Institute where she conducted research for partners including Free Press, The Ford Foundation, and MTV. In 2009, she co-authored Net Neutrality for the Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet.

Earlier in her career, Eleanor was Social Media Director for MEC, a media agency under the WPP umbrella where she oversaw strategy and media buying for IKEA, Citibank, and Colgate-Palmolive.

Eleanor not only has the resume to be successful leading Boston.com into the future, she has the leadership skills as well — she is universally admired and respected throughout the building. I couldn’t be more excited to have her leading Boston.com and I can guarantee she’ll continue to evolve it into a relevant, interesting property within the BGMP portfolio.

Boston.com hires an editor and a deputy editor

Tim Molloy (via LinkedIn)
Tim Molloy (via LinkedIn)

Well, this seems promising. Boston.com finally has an editor — and a new deputy editor as well. Even better, both of them have high-level editing experience, digital chops and local roots. The new editor is Tim Molloy, currently digital engagement editor at PBS’s “Frontline.” His deputy will be Kaitlyn Johnston, executive digital editor at Boston magazine. Their appointments take effect on March 16.

Other than generating clicks, it’s been unclear what Boston.com’s mission was supposed to be when it was relaunched last year and stripped of Boston Globe content. In a recent piece for WGBH News, I suggested turning it into an arts-and-entertainment site, filling the void left when my former employer, The Boston Phoenix, went under two years ago. (That post also provides some background on Boston.com’s woes, which is why I’m not rehashing them here.)

Kaitlin Johnston (via LinkedIn)
Kaitlyn Johnston (via LinkedIn)

In any event, I look forward to seeing what Molloy and Johnston can bring to the digital table. The press release follows.

Boston.com, one of the nation’s most highly trafficked regional news websites, today announced the appointments of Tim Molloy as Editor and Kaitlyn Johnston as Deputy Editor, effective March 16.

Molloy joins Boston.com from PBS’s Frontline, where he served as the Digital Engagement Editor after amassing nearly twenty years of experience as an editor and reporter at  TheWrap.com, TVGuide.com and The Associated Press.

Johnston comes to Boston.com after having served as the Executive Digital Editor for Boston Magazine, where she directed all facets of the digital operation.

Corey Gottlieb, Executive Director, Digital Strategy & Operations and General Manager of Boston.com, looks forward to working with Molloy and Johnston.

“I could not be more excited to welcome these two dynamic news professionals onto our team,” said Gottlieb. “Tim’s blend of vision and presence make him the embodiment of the journalistic values that should resonate through every story we choose to tell on the site. Kaitlyn’s proven ability to craft stories that reflect Boston to the rest of the world will be invaluable as we continue to shape Boston.com’s editorial mission with such narratives at our core,” said Gottlieb.

The pair’s responsibilities will span the entirety of Boston.com’s editorial operation, including: developing and executing on content strategy for the site; management of all editorial staff; development of new initiatives; audience retention and expansion; and strategic long-term planning for the brand.

During much of his career, Molloy has also been responsible for audience engagement and has worked across diverse constituents managing multiple media channels, from print to online and broadcast media. Molloy readily steps into his role: “As an online editorial and multimedia professional, I am compelled by news environments that seek to deliver content in dynamic ways. Boston.com has taken ambitious strides in that direction over the past year; the opportunity to build on that is what drew me to this role. I think we have the chance to become one of the most powerful storytelling entities in the country,” commented Molloy.

Before moving to Boston, Johnston worked as Digital Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and earned a Master’s Degree in Media Arts & Technology at Duquesne University. Johnston echoes Molloy’s enthusiasm: “I am looking forward to joining Boston.com, a thriving platform whose audience makes this a truly unique opportunity. The site has a large, diverse and highly engaged community of web, social and mobile readers who use Boston.com to discover, experience, and share news and information about all things Boston,” she said.

Happy news breaks out at Media Nation

Tighter editing standards at Boston.com, improved online comments at the Boston Herald and well-deserved recognition for some first-rate political reporters. There’s so much good news on the local media front on this day-after-the-blizzard morning that it’s hard to know where to begin.

• Boston.com strives for civility. After a miserable stretch in which it falsely accused a Harvard Business School professor (and, gulp, lawyer) of sending a racist email to one of the owners of a Chinese restaurant and then mocked House Speaker John Boehner’s alleged drinking problem following an assassination threat, the folks at Boston.com sound determined to get it right.

In an interview with Benjamin Mullin at Poynter.org, Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb says he’s beefed up copy-editing and tightened standards in response to the two incidents. He tells Mullin:

We’ve made a pretty strong point about the fact that it’s OK to slow down. That we’d much rather not be first but get something right and be really thoughtful about it than rush to publish and bypass the discretion that should be required of any good content producer like ours.

The worst thing the Boston Globe-affiliated site could do is chase clicks. December turned out to be a boffo month for Boston.com, driven by its reporting on the Harvard professor’s harassment of the Chinese restaurant over a $4 overcharge — a righteous hit before it went off the rails. (T-shirts were involved, too.) According to Compete.com, Boston.com received nearly 3.7 million unique visits in December, way up from November’s 2.8 million. Compete’s numbers aren’t perfect by any means, but it’s safe to say Boston.com’s numbers were up a lot.

Yet quality matters. And according to Compete, BostonGlobe.com actually attracted more traffic than its free cousin in December, receiving more than 3.8 million unique visits — even though you have to pay a digital subscription fee to receive full access to the site (granted, free social sharing at BostonGlobe.com is pretty generous these days).

No doubt Gottlieb and company are going to stick with their plan to build a buzzy site with lots of viral content (here’s my alternative idea). But I’m glad to see that they understand what’s gone wrong and that they’re determined to do something about it.

One of Boston.com’s biggest problems is that it’s been flying without an editor (except for a few weeks last fall) since its relaunch last spring. That should be rectified as soon as possible.

• The Herald embraces Facebook. Online newspaper comments in general can make you despair for humanity. Over the years the Herald’s have been particularly loathsome. So kudos to publisher Pat Purcell and editor Joe Sciacca for switching to a Facebook-based commenting system.

Facebook isn’t perfect. Certainly there are issues with a news organization turning over its community platform to a giant corporation with its own agenda and priorities. But people are generally more civil and constructive when they’re on Facebook, in large measure because Facebook requires real names — and most people comply.

Check out the comments beneath Howie Carr’s ridiculous column on climate change today. Not bad at all. Only one of the first eight is pseudonymous. And if they’re not all exactly civil, they are less toxic than I’m accustomed to seeing at BostonHerald.com.

Can a real-names policy at BostonGlobe.com be far behind?

Massachusetts’ best political reporters. Chris Cillizza, who runs a political blog for The Washington Post called The Fix, has named nine Massachusetts political reporters as among the best in the country. (Disclosure: The list was based in part on a reader poll, and I voted for friend of Media Nation Jon Keller, who’s among the winners — but every one of these is worthy.)

It’s especially nice to see a couple of reporters outside the Greater Boston orbit win recognition — Jim Hand of Attleboro’s Sun Chronicle and Shira Schoenberg of The Republican in Springfield. Congratulations to all.

Boston.com hires a top editor

Matt Gross
Matt Gross

Boston.com, the venerable free website started by The Boston Globe in the mid-1990s, relaunched earlier this year with a new design and a difficult task: to find an audience without any Globe content, which was moved lock, stock and barrel behind the BostonGlobe.com paywall (with fairly generous sharing options).

The site also launched without a top editor, although Hilary Sargent of ChartGirl fame (see this Jack Shafer story) has been a visible presence as news and homepage editor. The new Boston.com offers a combination of aggregation, viral content and some original reporting. Traffic initially took a dip, but rose every month from April through July, according to Compete.com.

Now the site has named an editor — Matt Gross, the former editor of BonAppetit.com. Sargent will be his deputy. The press release is below.

Boston (Sept. 10, 2014) — Matt Gross, award-winning editor, writer and author, has been appointed as the new editor of Boston.com, effective Sept. 29.

Since 2012, Gross, 40, was editor of Condé Nast’s BonAppetit.com, where he designed and executed an innovative content strategy that tripled the number of monthly unique visitors in less than two years. Under his direction, BonAppetit.com became a widely known digital hub for entertainment, style, events, recipes, and pop culture.

From 2006-2010, he wrote the popular “Frugal Traveler” column for the New York Times, traveling to dozens of countries in pursuit of money-saving tips for fellow travelers.

He has also written on food and travel for several national publications, including Afar and Saveur magazines, and served as an editor at outlets ranging from FoxNews.com to New York Magazine and Vietnam News. He is also the author of 2013’s “The Turk Who Loved Apples,” a chronicle of his world travels.

“My primary goals as Boston.com editor are to understand what readers are interested in, how they use the site, and how Boston.com can best serve its audience,” said Gross.

“I’ve been to many cities around the world and my favorite ones are those that have a very distinct personality. Boston is unique, and I look forward to leading the team at this vibrant website that is such a critical part of the city’s daily conversations.”

Long before becoming a multilingual globetrotter, Matt called Massachusetts home, having grown up in Concord and Amherst. He is relocating to Boston from Brooklyn with his wife, Jean, and two young children.

“Matt’s experience gives him a unique perspective that will drive compelling content, leveraging multimedia and social channels to tell great stories on Boston.com, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next October,” said Corey Gottlieb, Executive Director, Digital Strategy & Operations at Boston Globe Media Partners. “His vision will help to further define Boston.com’s identity.”

Boston.com also announced that Hilary Sargent has been named deputy editor of the site. Sargent, formerly the news and homepage editor, has been key in the reinvention of Boston.com content for the past ten months.

Globe executive announces digital moves

This email to Boston Globe and Boston.com employees was sent out a little while ago by Andrew Perlmutter, executive vice president of Boston Globe Media Partners. A source passed it along to Media Nation. The main news here seems to be that David Skok continues his rise on the Globe digital side and that the company is still in ramp-up mode with the new Boston.com. Interesting stuff if you geek out on these things, as I do.

Colleagues —

From launching Boston.com during the early days of the Internet to developing a responsively designed BostonGlobe.com in 2011, digital innovation and success have always been in our DNA here at Boston Globe Media. At the heart of this success lies the ability to evolve our products over time alongside new trends in digital consumption.

With the consumer web transforming faster than ever before, we must evolve again. In this phase in our evolution, we aim to become a world-class digital product operation. We must continue to produce great digital journalism. That is a given. But like the best web product companies today, we must also develop the ability to build and iterate products with great creativity, discipline, and efficiency. This requires a re-imagination of everything from the structure of the organization to our strategy for identifying and developing new content areas.

Luckily, we pursue this next phase with an incredibly strong foundation, anchored by our three core businesses: Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and our Digital Marketplaces. Because each business has the potential for independent growth, the initial step in our evolution is to build excellent, standalone digital product operations for all three properties. Great leadership and a top-notch talent base form the core of this strategy. With that as context, it is my pleasure to make some important personnel announcements.

First, I would like to formally announce that David Skok has, as part of his role as the Globe newsroom’s digital leader, taken the helm at BostonGlobe.com. David came to The Globe in early January and has been in the lead on BG.com since early April. An incredibly strong editorial and product leader, David comes to The Globe from Shaw Communications, where he ran the Global News’ website, Canada’s leading news organization. Additionally, Lauren Shea has joined the BG.com team as Product Director. Lauren comes to us from Arnold Worldwide and brings years of digital product expertise.

Second, I would like to announce that Corey Gottlieb and Angus Durocher will take over Boston.com and our Online Marketplace businesses as Executive Directors of Digital Strategy and Operations. Corey has spent five years building cutting edge digital media experiences at MLB Advanced Media. Meanwhile, Angus has over 15 years of consumer web experience, including leading and managing the front-end engineering team at YouTube for 5 years (both pre and post Google acquisition). With their remarkable combination of product, engineering, content, and marketing leadership skills, Boston.com and the Online Marketplace businesses are in great hands. In this updated structure, Corey will be responsible for Marketing, Content, and Business while Angus will oversee Technology and Design. And they will jointly guide our Product efforts.

Several other very talented individuals have also joined our digital operation recently. On the Boston.com editorial side, Adam Vacarro has joined us from Inc. Magazine while Sara Morrison and Eric Levenson have both come over from The Atlantic Wire. Please welcome them to the organization.

It is very exciting to bring these talented individuals to the organization. And this is just the beginning. Our leadership teams are building high-growth strategic roadmaps for their respective businesses, and we will continue to bring in top-tier talent to help us grow. In other words, the future looks very bright for us. We have a lot to accomplish and many challenges to overcome, but I know we are building the team to do it.

Here we go.

Andrew

Update. And now we learn that Laura Amico, the cofounder of Homicide Watch, will be joining BostonGlobe.com as news editor for multimedia and data projects. This is a huge move (disclosure: Laura and her husband and journalistic partner, Chris Amico, have worked with us at Northeastern) as well as a very smart one.

Still more. Here’s the announcement from David Skok:

I’m thrilled to announce that Laura Amico, the founder of Homicide Watch, will be joining the Globe newsroom to take on the new position of News Editor, Multimedia and Data Projects.

Without exaggeration, I can say that Laura is a bit of a rockstar and a trailblazer in the digital journalism community. She was both the first Nieman-Berkman Fellow in Journalism Innovation at Harvard and the first MJ Bear fellow through the Online News Association. She also teaches at Northeastern University and is the editor of WBUR’s Learning Lab.

Reporting to Jason Tuohey, Laura will oversee our talented data team along with our new metro producer, Andy Rosen.

Having someone of Laura’s pedigree to help push our creative efforts on story-centric journalism is a tremendous coup.  While Laura is most well-known for building the Homicide Watch platform, in our conversations, I’ve found that she possesses an intrinsic understanding of how to engage digital audiences in unique, purpose-driven, community journalism.

Laura understands that we’ve already had some great success with immersive multimedia reporting projects, most recently with Maria Sacchetti and Jessica Rinaldi’s ‘Unforgiven,’ the year-long Spotlight ‘Shadow Campus’ investigation, and the Filipov, Wen, Jacob’s triumvirate on the ‘Fall of the House of Tsarnaev.’ I’m confident that Laura’s diversity of thought will take us in new, extraordinary directions.

Laura (@LauraNorton) will join the Globe newsroom in late August.

— David