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

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Doug Franklin is out as CEO of Boston Globe Media; Vinay Mehra named president

Also published at WGBH News.

Update II: The Globe’s own story cites problems at the Taunton printing plant, so it looks like my speculation may have been on target: “But his [Franklin’s] tenure also saw continued press problems at the newspaper’s new Taunton printing facility, which has been a vexing and expensive headache for a media organization fighting to become financially self-sufficient in an era of declining print advertising. The printing problems pre-date Franklin, who started on Jan. 1.” Pre-date? It was only recently that the Globe began using the Taunton facility exclusively.

Updating: Vinay Mehra, the chief financial officer of Politico and a former executive at WGBH, will become the president and chief financial officer of Boston Globe Media, according to a memo to the staff from publisher and owner John Henry. Henry also says that he and his wife, managing partner Linda Pizzuti Henry, plan to take a more active role. No word on whether a new CEO will be named. The full text:

You’ve seen Doug’s note that he plans to leave the Globe. First, I’m very grateful for Doug’s hard work on behalf of this organization at an especially complex and sensitive time — as we moved from our decades-long home in Dorchester to Exchange Place and Taunton. These are not easy jobs in this industry, and Doug did his with passion, impact, and commitment. We wish Doug well in what will undoubtedly be successful endeavors in the future.

Second, effective immediately, Vinay Mehra will become the president and chief financial officer of the Globe. Vinay has distinguished himself at every stop along his career, most recently at Politico, where he was an active CFO with a strong grasp of the entire business and a commitment to a journalism enterprise supported by novel revenue streams. His prior work at WGBH gave him important insights into the Boston region, where he has always lived while commuting to Washington, and an understanding of the Globe’s vital role in New England.

Third, I will be a more active publisher and Linda will take on more responsibility as we push for financial sustainability in an environment that is extraordinarily challenging for news organizations dedicated to communities where facts and context matter.

This is a great and important news organization, one that is positioned for many more decades of success.

Best,
John

Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)

Doug we hardly knew ye. Last December, Boston Globe Media named veteran newspaper executive Doug Franklin as chief executive officer to replace Mike Sheehan, who was leaving after three years in charge. Now Franklin is leaving, citing “differences” with owner John Henry over “how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability.”

At this early stage I have no idea what went wrong. I will point out that the Globe has been sending out frequent emails apologizing for late delivery of the print edition since shifting from its old Morrissey Boulevard headquarters to a new plant in Taunton — but I can’t say I know whether that has anything to do with Franklin’s departure.

Here is Franklin’s memo to the staff, two copies of which arrived in my inbox from my sources within the past few minutes.

Globe Team,

You are part of a very special institution in New England, and everyone here should be honored to serve our readers, advertisers, and broader community through our journalism and business offerings. While John Henry and I share similar passion and vision for the Globe, we have our differences how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability. With disappointment, I am resigning from the Globe, effective immediately, and will not be part of your work shaping the Globe’s future.

There are many great things about the Globe and equally many challenges in the industry. Our business will continue to reshape itself, with some areas getting smaller and more efficient while we invest in new technology and products for our future.

I hope that over the past six months I have provided some clarity, honesty and realistic optimism of what you are capable of accomplishing in the coming years. I have truly appreciated the support and our partnership during the brief period in which I was privileged in getting to know you and your work.

I took on this role because I love the newspaper industry, cherish our First Amendment obligations, and value the role of the Globe in the Boston region. It was a big challenge, but I also believed it was a good fit, given my record of successfully turning around newspapers. The Globe is one of the best brands, best newsrooms and most loyal reader subscription businesses in the country. Hard work is ahead for all of you and I know you will successfully navigate the challenges. I wish you the best and thank you.

Doug Franklin
CEO

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify Vinay Mehra’s new position at the Globe.

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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

Incoming Globe CEO Doug Franklin says he is ‘bullish’ about the future

Doug Franklin, the incoming chief executive officer of the Boston Globe, sent an email to employees earlier this morning. As these things often do, a copy landed in my inbox. Franklin will succeed Mike Sheehan on January 1. The full text of Franklin’s message follows.

Dear Boston Globe Team,

I’m honored to have the opportunity to be part of your very special institution. When I met with John Henry and the senior team, I knew immediately there was a “fit” that would allow us to do great work in the coming years. My career started in newspapers and I’m excited to partner with everyone to build the Globe’s pathway for future success.

There are great foundations in place, including outstanding journalism, a state-of-the-art printing plant in Taunton, new offices on State Street coming soon, important advertiser relationships, a strong digital subscription model with still more potential, and most importantly—you. Your work contributes to the important role the Globe plays in the community every day.

I have a lot to learn from you about the Globe and the Boston community, but there are a few common goals in all media organizations. We need to listen to our market—our readers, audiences and advertisers—and equally important, to those we don’t connect with so we can grow. We need to channel our talented team into a few important strategies that insure the best pathway forward. I believe our best competitive advantage is the incredibly talented staff of Globe.

Given the industry challenges, we have no choice but to move with speed and urgency. We won’t be reckless in our decision-making, but we must be fearless. I, working with the leadership team, will be as transparent, fair and timely as possible about the strategic decisions we make. We are fortunate to be privately held by John Henry, because it allows us flexibility in our approach. But it does not absolve us of the need to sustain ourselves financially. I know you’ve been making difficult decisions already, but we have more tough decisions ahead in terms of deploying our resources and talent toward new, promising strategies so the Globe can serve the Boston community for decades to come.

You will find me accessible; in return, I encourage your honest feedback. I’m a straight shooter with everyone. I will be a champion for the Globe and your work. You will have an aligned senior leadership team next year driving important strategies, and we will communicate regularly with you.

While there are no silver bullets in our business, I’m bullish about our pathway forward. Mobile and social platforms allow us to reach more readers than ever before with your expert storytelling. Our mission is unique: informing, improving and inspiring Boston. Our brand is among the best in the region—and the industry.

Some have asked why I’m returning to a metropolitan news organization. The answer is really pretty simple. I believe your work is important to our democracy and the greater good, now more than ever. John and I are determined to nurture a strategy that will keep the Globe at the center of civic life in New England for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the Globe. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in the weeks and months ahead. I also hope you get time this holiday season with your family and friends. It’s important. Get recharged and look ahead to our important work in 2017.

All the best and happy holidays!

Doug

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Doug Franklin to succeed Mike Sheehan as Globe CEO

Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)
Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Doug Franklin, a top executive with Cox Enterprises and Cox Media Group, will succeed Mike Sheehan as chief executive officer of the Boston Globe on January 1, according to an announcement made a little while ago by Globe publisher John Henry.

Henry’s memo, a copy of which was obtained by Media Nation, is effusive in its praise of Sheehan, crediting the former Hill Holliday advertising executive with untangling the Globe from the New York Times Company, which sold the Globe to Henry in 2013; moving the Globe‘s printing operations to a new facility in Taunton; and preparing the news and business staffs to move to downtown Boston in mid-2017.

“These initiatives are as complex as they are risky,” Henry wrote. “Any one of them would be a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for an executive. But the leadership team, working under Mike, has tackled each of them.”

Of Franklin, Henry says: “As I’ve gotten to know Doug over the past few months, I’ve come to understand that he is fearless, energeticarticulate, and passionate in his desire to help the Globe achieve our long-term goal of creating a sustainable business model for high level journalism.”

The Globe covers the story here.

The full text of Henry’s message to Globe employees follows.

Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Mike Sheehan and was immediately taken with his passion for the Globe’s mission and his love of our city. It didn’t take much to get Mike to agree to help. If I recall correctly, employment negotiations took all of about two minutes, the first minute on compensation, the second on length of service. We never discussed either again. I’ve been involved in many protracted negotiations over the years, but this wasn’t a negotiation—it was a meeting of the minds of two people determined to serve and protect one of New England’s most important institutions during a difficult time for American newspapers.

This past January, Mike reminded me that the original term we agreed to was three years and it was time to start looking for someone to succeed him in the Chief Executive Officer role before the end of the year. So we quietly embarked on a truly national search, one that involved many strong candidates. There turned out to be no shortage of talented executives who wanted to serve in that capacity. Ultimately Mike, Brian [McGrory] and I settled on a new chief executive officer we felt was perfect for the role. I’ll elaborate on this in just a moment.

On behalf of everyone at the Globe, I’d like to thank Mike for putting aside his other business interests as an owner, partner, board member, and investor and being willing to take on the Globe challenge full force from Day One through Day One Thousand. In essence, we were a new company three years ago—unwinding systems and processes from the New York Times was the first order of business. The second order was figuring out how to reduce our very high cost structure, much of it tied to the inefficient printing of newspapers on presses configured in the late 1950s and our presence in an 800,000 square foot building with astronomically high utility and upkeep costs. The third order was making sure the news organization of the future was physically located in a central, vibrant neighborhood, in space designed for how people work today while looking ahead to our digital aspirations for tomorrow.

These initiatives are as complex as they are risky. Any one of them would be a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for an executive. But the leadership team, working under Mike, has tackled each of them.

The Taunton printing facility, which was not even a concept threeplus years ago is printing 725,000 newspapers a week, with the third of five press lines now operational. Over Thanksgiving week, the Taunton mailroom inserted 16 million pieces for the Globe and six commercial clients. By March 31, 2017 Taunton will be our sole printing and distribution center with projected annual savings of $22 million, a higher quality product, and the opportunity to attract more commercial printing work.

I have no question that our move of the newsroom and business operations to 53 State Street will have equal impact on our culture and our business. Demolition of the space is complete, construction will commence on January 1, and we’re on track for a mid-2017 move. Many of you have seen the design and flow of the space, and it’s clearly reflective of an organization that’s serious about the kind of reinvention that is underway in our newsroom and throughout the organization.

None of these moves were on the radar screen—mine or Mike’s—when we first met in December of 2013, but they’re well on their way to successful completion. While these complex projects have not been without challenges and stress, they are critical building blocks in helping us achieve our goal of long-term sustainability. Some of these changes are far from glamorous, but each one is utterly vital to the success of this company.

I asked Mike what he is most proud of during his tenure, and, in typical fashion, he answered without hesitation or mincing of words. “When that newspaper lands on my doorstep every morning, it’s more relevant and interesting than it’s ever been.” Honestly, I feel exactly the same way. Mike took this job, in large part, to do whatever he could to support Brian, Ellen [Clegg], and every dedicated reporter, columnist, and editor who works here. He’s stood beside Linda [Pizutti Henry] and me when four Pulitzer Prizes were announced. He understands the vital role the Globe plays in the region, and he vigorously promotes our mission throughout the business community every day.

In fact, of all the things I’ve grown to admire about Mike, that might be what I admire most. But beyond his devotion to the mission of journalism in our community, he has for many years been the ideal ambassador for many organizations in Boston. He is deeply respected within the business community and has been one of the most important behind-the-scenes individuals in the charitable sector. He is widely hailed as a no-nonsense executive who is an unfailingly decent human being, giving his time to so many in all walks of life. Everywhere I go, someone inevitably says to me, “I was just talking to Mike about…”

Like virtually every other newspaper CEO in the country, Mike has overseen necessary downsizing, and we’ve reduced expenses $30 million since 2014. But he has vigilantly approached the task of reducing with the mantra of “newsroom last.” To Mike, this is not a cause-related strategy as much as it is business related. His conviction that quality journalism attracts a premium audience and commands a premium price is intractable. Given our growth in paid digital subscriptions, now approaching 75,000, that intractability is not unwarranted. Case in point: the exquisite five-part narrative on the journey of Will Lacey has garnered hundreds of thousands of visits, with thousands upon thousands of people signing up for email updates on the series.

Please join Linda, Brian, and me in thanking Mike for all he’s done. While he’ll no longer be a Globe employee in 2017, he’s assured us this is just a technicality. He will always advocate for our mission and our business, and he will introduce and help his successor acclimate to the Boston community.

Now please join me in welcoming Doug Franklin as Chief Executive Officer of Boston Globe Media Partners and the Boston Globe, starting January 1, 2017. Doug is a seasoned newspaper executive, dedicating much of his career to Cox Media Group Properties and overseeing virtually all aspects of the business while leading change in each role along the way.

Between 2013 and 2015, Doug was Executive Vice President and CFO of Cox Enterprises, the parent company of all Cox businesses including communications, media, and automotive. Cox is an $18 billion company with 50,000 employees. Prior to that, from 2010 to 2013, he rose from EVP to President of Cox Media Group which is comprised of their TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and digital operations. Doug has extensive experience as a newspaper publisher, overseeing four Ohio newspapers including the Dayton Daily News from 2004 to 2008, then becoming Publisher of the Palm Beach Post for a short but high-impact stint in 2008, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution until 2010. Doug has experienced virtually every challenge our industry faces todayand succeeded at every turn. As I’ve gotten to know Doug over the past few months, I’ve come to understand that he is fearless, energetic, articulate, and passionate in his desire to help the Globe achieve our long-term goal of creating a sustainable business model for high level journalism.

Doug’s responsibilities at the Globe will include all business aspects, including production as well as the newsroom. He knows that we have made many tough decisions over the past few years, and there are undoubtedly more to come in an industry that is still coming to terms with massive, continuous changes in advertising and delivery—both in print and digitally. We have no choice but to succeed, and we will. This vibrant region depends on it.

Doug has met with members of the leadership team a number of times, and they share my enthusiasm in welcoming him to the Globe. He’ll be moving here from his current home in Sarasota, and given his eagerness to begin, you may see him around the building over the next few weeks.

On Wednesday, December 21, we’re planning a Town Hall meeting at 3 p.m. in the Atrium so Mike can say goodbye and Doug can say hello. Please join us there.

Best,
John

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